My Story Starts Here: Voices of Young Offenders

Groundwood. Oct. 2019. 224p. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781773061214.
Gr 7 Up–Ellis’s collection of interviews offers a varied and deeply humanizing picture of young adults who have interacted with the criminal justice system. The book effectively ties the issue of youth in conflict to poverty, substance abuse, violence, intergenerational trauma, and failure of government programs to provide an adequate safety net to children and families. The volume offers an alternative to institutionalization in the restorative justice movement, which is defined as a process that culminates in an opportunity for the offender to “make restitution to the victim and to the community.” Readers may wonder how much liberty the author has taken with editing the narratives, as the writing voice is noticeably consistent throughout the book despite a diverse interviewee cohort. This leads to a tone that feels inauthentic at times, but the benefit is a very clear, concise, and readable set of interviews.
VERDICT A worthy addition to a middle or high school library, especially one that serves students in conflict. A sensitive and informed look at court-involved youth with writing that is thought provoking and precise, if somewhat specious.

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