Dirt Road Home by Watt Key

4.5 Stars - Another great novel by Watt Key

     Labeled a troublemaker and juvenile delinquent, Hal was determined to stay out of trouble at Helenweiller Boys’ Home in the hope that he would be released before his eighteenth birthday.  His dad had stopped drinking, was working a steady job, and Hal had met a beautiful girl named Carla who cared for him despite his rap sheet. 

     Hal actually believed he could one day have a life, especially when his attorney tells him the judge was considering early release if Hal stayed out of trouble and followed the rules.    Hal tried to make himself invisible and focused solely on getting out.  Hal, though, can only keep his temper under control for so long.  Though Hal could throw a punch and was stronger than most of the boys there, he repeatedly endured brutal beatings and harassment for his refusal to join one of the  gangs , either the Death Row Ministers or the Hell Hounds.     When Hal goes to Guard Pratt for permission to stay inside during their outside play period to avoid any confrontations, his request is denied.  Hal realizes that the director and guards often ignored the violence and seemed to even instigate conflict between the boys.    

     Soon Hal is beaten so brutally by the Hell Hounds he ends up in the infirmary; Hal begins to fear he may actually die before he is released.  All hope for release is soon gone, though, when the director falsifies conduct reports, blaming the fights on Hal and altering his medical records which detailed all the beatings he endured.      

     The enemies are not the Hell Hounds or the Death Row Ministers – it’s the Staff at the boys’ home.  

The only hope Hal has is to somehow expose the corruption and stay alive at all costs….. Companion novel to Alabama Moon