This novel's dust jacket reports that the author was "a Ward of the State of Illinois from age thirteen to eighteen." So when exactly the same fate befalls the narrator, one suspects that the book is largely autobiographical. This makes it harder to dismiss as fanciful or vestigial the horrendous abuses described within the juvenile justice and welfare systems: regulations that push a nonoffending, nonviolent child into more punitive and restrictive settings; staff who ignore, abuse, and even kill children; one staff member who repeatedly rapes the protagonist; facilities that are essentially prisons, with just as much violence and drugs, but less safety; and cases decided by lawyers, judges, and caseworkers who don't bother to learn anything about the children, or even let them into the courtroom. Yet while this material was eye opening and not "just fiction," the book does not expose a globally deficient system, and its sketch of the system's workings seems at times overgeneralized. The author conveys personal suffering, but he is no Upton Sinclair. I wondered how my reading of the book would have been altered had I not been given the author's history.