Youth non fiction is not something I read a lot so when I picked up this book it as partly to fill that void and expand my horizons and it was partly because the name of the book was so intriguing I actually thought it was a fictional tale and I had to look at the call number a few times to convince myself that it wasn't.
This boy's life was harrowing almost from a very young age. His parents' divorce affected him financially as his father's erratic behavior and anti-establishment nature lead him to constantly uproot them and even when they settled somewhere it was usually next to other people with substance abuse problems and dubious parenting skills.
The events in this story occurred in the late seventies and early eighties and while I am not saying things in this book don't occur now, the advent of technology certainly makes it easier for behavior to be monitored and addressed.
The book is heart wrenching at times and you really feel for Mr. Schmidt. He writes about things in such a matter of fact, dispassionate manner that it makes it even more difficult to read. He mentions few details about school in his formative years and as a former teacher I am quite shocked that he didn't need counselling and/or lengthy visits with the school social worker. It is a testament to his natural intelligence and drive that he was able to pick up his schooling later on despite having missed a fair amount of instruction due to his father's reticence about the education system and Mr. Schmidt's own behavioral issues.
In addition to being a coming-of-age story, this is a story about a deadly health crisis, its toll on a family and on the psyche of a young boy. I imagine that writing this book must have been very cathartic for Mr. Schmidt as his father dealt with a host of issues which he struggled to deal with adequately. Because of the strong language, drug references and other strong content I recommend this book for ages 13+.