Cover image for Good behavior
Good behavior
1st U.S. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 2010.

Physical Description:
262 p. ; 21 cm.
Target Audience:
860 L
Story of a teenager's year in jail and the life that led him there--there--and a moving story of redemption.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader Grades 9-12 5.4 9 Quiz 138674 English non-fiction.
Lexile Measure:
Personal Subject:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Book 365.4209 HENRY 1

On Order



Jailed at age sixteen for armed robbery, Nathan Henry was the kind of teenager most parents and teachers have nightmares about. His crime was the culmination of a life lived on the edge: guns and drugs, sex and violence, all set against the ordinary backdrop of a one-stop light town in rural Indiana. Nate's personal history is both disturbing and fascinating. A rough childhood becomes an adolescence full of half-realized violent fantasies that slowly build to the breaking point. But these scenes alternate with chapters about Nate's time in jail, where through reading and reflection he comes to see that his life can be different from all he's known up to this point.

Nathan's story of his year in jail and the life that led him there combine to create a powerful portrait of an American youth gone bad-and a moving story of redemption.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-In this gritty memoir, Henry alternates chapters between his childhood and his 16th year, which he spends locked up in Paradise County Jail, IL. His violent father's obsession with guns; paranoid fantasies of death, dismemberment, and destruction; and readiness to share details of those fantasies with his young son paved the way for Henry's fearful and angry acting out (yet he does not use them as an excuse). After the boy did a stint in a behavioral-health rehabilitation center, with no explanation of medication protocol upon release, armed robbery seemed inevitable. Reading and questioning the nature of existence in his cell leads Henry to an awakening and awareness of his life and future desires. An epilogue explains that two years later he is married and happy-presumably out of the life that led him to trouble. The abrupt ending is a disappointment, and readers will be left with many questions. Lots of swearing, violent fantasies, and descriptions of sexual experiences make this book most appropriate for older teens. There is certainly a place for memoirs of incarcerated Caucasian teens, and youth in detention centers (as well as elsewhere) around the country will want to read this book.-Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

As hard-hitting as Jack Gantos's Hole in My Life, this memoir of a teenager's year in jail offers insight into a mind obsessed with violence. First-time author Henry alternates explicit memories of his troubled childhood in a house full of guns with scenes inside an Illinois county jail, where the 16-year-old has plenty of time to ponder the events leading to his act of armed robbery and subsequent arrest. The portrait of Nathan's youth is not for the fainthearted. His seeming lack of conscience as he torments animals and engages in other forms of cruelty are disturbing, yet he is shown to be as much a victim as a villain; the influence of Nathan's abusive, unpredictable father looms over the book. Moments when Nathan expresses remorse ("I would eventually, many years after all this, acquire a lot of cats... and I would lavish them with affection.... I would over identify with them, to compensate for what horrors I visited upon the animal kingdom when I was young") foreshadow his repentance. Witnessing Nathan's emotional journey is a painful but enlightening experience that won't easily be forgotten. Ages 14-up. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

In alternating chapters, Nathan Henry recounts the increasingly violent lifestyle that led to his arrest and the subsequent year he spent in prison, mostly served in isolation. Jail allowed Nathan to reflect upon his past and to become intellectually alive. While the details and perspective sound authentic--disturbingly so--the exploration of his epiphany is a little murky. (c) Copyright 2011. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Henry opens the tale of his tough-to-read-about, tougher-to-live teen years with his incarceration for armed robbery, then alternates chapters about his year in jail with the backstory of what brought him there. Obviously a very disturbed boy, he took pleasure in massacring animals, embraced Satanism, and armed himself with guns, knives, and hatred. While most memoirs of teen delinquency seem to come from urban centers and focus on the scourge of drugs and gang violence, Henry's is unusual in its small-town roots and echoes of very real cultural trauma: We had plans to attack our school and slaughter our fellow students. . . . It's surprising to me that Columbine didn't happen sooner. In jail, Henry finds release from his dark instincts in those pillars of teen iconoclasm Rimbaud, Nietzsche, and Kerouac and embraces the world of ideas and literature. Although Henry's is an extreme case, there's little doubt that the troubling content and graphic language of his memoir will be very familiar to teens, especially those in underprivileged areas.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist