Skip to Main Content

“When we’re born, we’re sentenced to, like, life. And some of us—I’d be a prime example—are made to do hard time."

So says Annie Ireland, sentenced to a life of trying to live up to her parents’ never-ending expectations. For a long time the only person she can count on for unconditional support is her best friend, Arby, known to the horror and delight of many as “The Roach Boy.”

And then Pantagruel Primo, Esquire, comes into Annie’s life, and just like that, she has another friend, this one ageless and with special powers—and not looking like himself (at all), at first.

Suddenly, as a result of a story she writes for English class, Annie and her friends find themselves sentenced to five days in the county jail and then to an indefinite stay at the Back to Basics Center, a wilderness school for “problem” kids.

After a series of comic misadventures they manage to escape its bizarre, unpleasant clutches, and Annie comes to realize she’s unique and strong and lovable, and that it doesn’t matter what some other people think.

Delightfully ridiculous (but also timely), part fantasy and part real life, Hard Time is a humorous, sophisticated tale about one girl’s struggle to be who she is rather than the person some adults keep wanting her to become.

Julian F. Thompson is the author of many award-winning books for young adults, among them Simon Pure, A Band of Angels, Gypsyworld, The Grounding of Group 6, Terry and the Pirates, and Hard Time. He founded an alternative school in northern New Jersey in the early 1970s and has been a champion of teenagers ever since he was one. Mr. Thompson and his wife, artist Polly Thompson, live in Burlington and West Rupert, Vermont.