House Arrest by K.A. Holt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
*spoilers at end*
Timothy has been put on house arrest for a year and has to keep a journal to prove to a judge that he has learned from his mistake. What was his mistake? Stealing a wallet and using someone’s credit card to pay for his little brother’s monthly medication. Levi isn't even a year old and he has a trach to help him breathe, but it also means constant care. Nurses, medical supplies, dr visits—they all cost a lot. And ever since Timothy’s dad left, it's been up to his mom to do it all, so Timothy wanted to help. Now he's stuck in his house for twelve months and he's angry.
Through his journal, Timothy talks to his probation officer, James, and psychologist, Mrs. B. He relates, through verse, what he and his mom deal with on a daily basis. As a twelve year old, Timothy is often left in charge because his mom has to work and they don't have a nurse that day. So Timothy does things like suction Levi’s tube, change ties, teach his brother sign language, and generally keep him happy and alive.
Timothy works so hard to grow and learn and keep himself in control, and does an amazing job, despite the odds. Despite being a twelve year old boy who feels like it is his responsibility to make sure his brother has the medical care he needs. Despite seeing because his mother give every little part of herself to keep it all together as she breaks apart at the seams. Despite his father leaving their family without a word. Despite being responsible for his brother when there is no nurse that day and his mom HAS to go to work. The world is against this kid—that’s what it feels like.
Then things start to go up. His probation officer and his psychologist are amazing and helpful and caring. His neighbors jump in and help with food and clothing and comfort. They all help carry his family when they need it. So you start to believe that it's all going to be okay and things truly are looking great.
**SPOILERS HERE **
But when Timothy makes a choice between violating his parole and keeping his baby brother alive, he makes the right choice and gets Levi to the hospital—and also lands himself in juvie. No one evaluates the situation and sees that this kid was doing right and he had grown so much in the previous almost year. No one who is capable of making a decision sees this or tries to change it. And although he does save his brother, and his brother goes to get help, all the work Timothy did to make it happen doesn't even seem to count.
I'm angry at this book. I am so incredibly upset. Which is good because books should make you feel. And three days after finishing it, I’m still seething. I liked this book more than I expected and I felt cheated —not so much for myself, but for Timothy. He was cheated. And it's not fair. Which I realize is life. Usually I am okay with endings that aren't happily-ever-after. But this one rubbed me the wrong way. I had thought things would get better, not perfect, but improved. And they did, right before it was completely ripped away from him. And that was it.
**SPOILERS END HERE!**
I still recommend this book. I will share it with my book club this year because I think we’ll have a lot to discuss. It's completely appropriate in all ways, but still deals with heavy themes: divorce, very sick relatives, asking for help, growth, ideas of what is morally right vs what is technically right in the eyes of the law, family. There is a lot to discuss.