In a sentence or so: William Sheppard reflects back on his life as a boy growing up on Swope Ranch Boys' Reformatory after stabbing his abusive father.Will sees a horse dying in the middle of a busy street after the trailer carrying the horse was hit by a SUV. Cradling the dying horse's head in his arms and comforting the animal as it passes drudges up old memories. Memories that Will would rather he not remember. Will knows by thinking his memories, let alone writing them down, they will become freshly vivid and intense and overwhelming - even after fifty years. He also knows he has to do it in order to get justice, maybe even revenge, for his closest friends.In a balance of memoir and narrative fiction, Will takes the reader on his emotionally raw and overwhelming journey. Starting at only 13, Will is arrested for what many readers will believe is a justifiable crime. None the less, Will is sent to a reformatory to serve out a two year sentence. Those two years bring pain, injustice, heart break, unspeakable tragedies and so much hurt. They also bring friendship, an increasing awareness of the world and the adults who run it, and self discovery.This book made me ill. I do mean that as a compliment, by the way. By having the main character reflect back on his past, we get an account of how things really went down without the dialogue feeling forced or the emotions feeling too adult. The horror these kids went through - brought on by themselves, from their peers, or the adults who ran the place - was gut-wrenching to read. It's an incredible story and fantastically written, so despite the gnawing ache of nausea in my stomach, I read on. I always read on because Will's story demanded to be heard.This book is not for the weak of heart. Hell, it's not even for the strong of heart. This is a book that exposes the real hurt and insanity and twisted desire for pain that exists in our world. I never felt like any of it was too over the top either, or that none of it couldn't possibly be real. Which, of course, was the worst part of all.If you're looking for an emotionally intense and compelling and ultimately rewarding coming-of-age story told from an adult perspective, give this one a read. I can't stress enough how well written and balanced this book is in terms of action, plot, hurt, hope, and confusion. Really, it's fantastic. Just make sure you take frequent breaks to look at pictures of rainbows or unicorns or something.Fave Quotes: "In the summer of 1963, when I was thirteen, I stabbed my father in the chest with a Davy Crockett Explorers pocketknife." (OPENING LINE. I know. pg. 1)"Horses came and went, delinquent boys came and went. The boys broke the horses, Swope Reformatory broke the boys." (pg. 25)Fix er up: Truly, this was so well written. The hits just kept coming and coming and it was too much for my heart to bear sometimes.