Review published on October 28, 2016.
The success of Sarah Crossan’s One proved that there’s very much a place for novels in verse in YA fiction and K.A. Holt’s House Arrest supports this notion. Written in free verse, it chronicles a year in the life of twelve-year-old Timothy, in the form of a court-ordered journal he is instructed to keep in order to escape juvenile detention. It soon becomes clear that Timothy’s story isn’t black and white; he isn’t simply an adolescent who has gone off the rails. His story is rooted in a wider family narrative, specifically that of his younger brother Levi’s ill health. Holt writes without over-sentimentalising Timothy’s plight, but at the same time acutely renders the difficulties of his situation and the internal struggles that he faces. In general, for me, the verse form didn’t always feel fluid, and I can only think that the short, concise lines better suited representing Timothy’s guardedness and reticence than effusive, drawn-out sentences. In that way, the form did suit the purpose, but it lacks some of the lyricism and rhythm one might expect. Having said that, the beauty of the form is that it can be so versatile and individual, and one of the main strengths of the novel is that it showcases to young people in particular poetry’s adaptability. Indeed, Holt succeeds in breaking down many of the conventions and flaws that can often put teens off engaging with poetry. This is the sort of book that could be extremely useful in getting children interested in literature and poetry and causing them to engage with themes and structures that are less imposing and more relevant to their lives. It’s certainly a book that I think teens could really enjoy both individually and as a group read.
Jade Craddock 4/4
House Arrest by K.A. Holt
Chronicle Books 9781452156484 pbk Aug 2016