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The Mechanics
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Law Tue Apr 21 2015

Up In Here Fails to Live Up to Its Potential

While attending Moody Bible Institute, Mark Dostert would go with his fellow students to do the school's Practical Christian Ministry at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, more commonly known as Audy Home, on the West Side. Dostert felt he was contributing to the lives and after receiving a graduate degree in Texas, he returns to Chicago to become a "children's attendant" at Audy Home, only to realize he is essentially a prison guard and another cog in the prison complex.

Up In Here chronicles what could be a very compelling first-hand account of one man's journey inside one of the largest incarceration systems in the country, but it is hindered by Dostert's poor narrative voice and decisions as a writer.

Up In HereWhat does work about the book is people may go in expecting Dostert to be a savior for the wayward youth in Audy Home, but it becomes very evident early in the book he cannot help those incarcerated like he wants. He is to ensure the teenagers get to and from rooms and no one causes any trouble.

Among the many problems with the book is that it became so incredibly clear early on in the book that Dostert's wide-eyed optimism going into his new job would disintegrate rapidly, and this causes the book to be a joyless slog.

Unlike most books examining juvenile incarceration, which can be unenjoyable solely for the subject matter, this one is rendered difficult to read because of Dostert's narration. For example, he informs the reader of water in Audy Home is a specific brand purchased from Jewel, which is a detail that does not help move the story being told in the book along. This is symptomatic of the greater problem with how Dostert writes, which is that there is too much detail where it does not count and not enough to show us the problems with incarcerating youth.

This is in turn very frustrating because Dostert has a good story to tell, it just is not told well. A personal story would be great for readers to latch onto when it comes to discussing prisons and teen crimes, but that does not arrive in Up in Here.

 
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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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