Sunday, July 14, 2013

review: prisoner 88 by leah pileggi

After hearing the story of a 10 year old boy who was incarcerated in Idaho in 1885, Leah Pileggi was inspired to write Prisoner 88. The novel is not a true story, but Pileggi based her story on the research she did regarding what the Old Idaho Penitentiary was like then. In Prisoner 88, Jake is sentenced to five years for the crime of manslaughter. As horrible as it sounds to be a child in prison, Jake’s in a better situation than when he lived with his father—he is fed regularly and another inmate begins teaching him to read. The book is filled with joy and sadness as Jake navigates his new life.

Pileggi relies upon one of my pet peeves—writing entirely in the poor English of the characters. It’s distracting and comes across as an easy way out when trying to set the book in a time and place. And while it’s fascinating to have the story come solely from Jake’s perspective, it creates some nagging questions about the situation that either don’t get answered or are answered very late in the novel. However, the subject itself is captivating.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Charlesbridge.

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