Author: Leslie Connor
Rating: 5 stars
I struggled with this premise yall.
A middle-grade novel about a boy being RAISED IN A MINIMUM SECURITY PRISON struck me as ridiculous and idealistically implausible. My brain kept screaming A CHILD DOES NOT BELONG IN A PRISON.
I'm not quite sure All Rise circumvents those concerns. But it was heartwarming and enjoyable. I know that probably makes no sense, but it's my honest opinion and you'll just have to read the book to see if you agree.
Perry's mother, Jessica, is in jail for a "mistake" she made when she was 18. She realized she was pregnant shortly after being incarcerated. The warden steps in and becomes the foster parent of the baby. The warden creates a room for the child - Perry- at the prison so Jessica can raise him. Perry attends school, is kinda the prison mascot and is friends with *some* of the "rezs". It is stressed that all of the prisoners are non-violent and the ones that are dangerous - this is a prison lest we forget- are referred to as the "cold ones" and Perry stays away from them. The cold ones stay on the periphery of the story. Which seems appropriate when you consider that is where Jessica and Perry mentally keep the harsh circumstances around them. As I read this story, my objections to the premise began to calm down and you begin to see the residents as Perry's friends and as complex people who made mistakes.
The villain in the story, if you want to call him that, is a prosecutor who becomes aware of the situation. Perry is the worst kept secret in town so he learns of what is going on. He has Perry removed from the prison and takes him into his own family to show him a better life. This brings up interesting thoughts on what is best for a child, what is home, belief in redemption, forgiveness. The prosecutor is not all bad. I couldn't hate him when he was just voicing my same knee-jerk objections.
Perry is an optimistic and lovable little boy who always looks for the good in every situation. He is slow to anger and is probably the most well-rounded character in the story. You root for Perry the whole book.
The secondary characters were wonderful. One of my favorite characters in the story which is Mrs. Samuels - the prosecutor's wife. While she supports her husband, she supports Perry as well. She reads as submissive but you learn she is no pushover. I really enjoyed her character.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I would even re-read it when I need a feel-good read. It was a pleasant surprise.