Reading level: Young Adult / Grades 7-10
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (July 20, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0374308632
ISBN-13: 978-0374308636


Dirt Road Home

The Plot:

After his recapture at the end of ALABAMA MOON, gutsy 14-year-old Hal Mitchell is sentenced to live at Hellenweiler, an institution that is more like a jail than the boys’ home it’s supposed to be. Hal could walk out in just a few months if he keeps out of trouble. But in a place like Hellenweiler, the more he tries to avoid the gangs and their violence, the stronger Hal’s fellow inmates try to make him fail.


“Key nicely paces his tale, steadily building the tension. . . . There’s more than enough action to keep the fidgitiest adolescent boy glued to the page here.”—Mobile Press-Register

“With authentic characters and a candid first-person narrative, Key’s story offers a disturbing appraisal of life in a juvenile facility, and a riveting battle for justice.”—Publishers Weekly

“The short chapters, quick pacing, and plentiful dialogue make Key’s impressive second effort an especially appealing choice for reluctant boy readers.”—The Horn Book

“A gripping tale of a 14-year-old caught in a justice system that is not about justice at all.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Hal quickly learns that the boys who want to fight him aren’t his real challenge—it’s the guards who allow it to happen.”—Birmingham Magazine

“. . . Hal’s efforts to contain his rage and navigate brawls keep the atmosphere tense and pacing fleet. . . . for comeuppance it doesn’t get much more satisfying.”—Booklist


Alabama Library Association Young Adult Fiction Award


Teacher Resources:

Dirt Road Home has made its way onto the reading lists of many schools, these documents will help your classroom study and discuss the novel..

Feel free to download them and modify them for use in your classroom.

pdf_iconDirt Road Home Discussion Guide #1

 pdf_iconDirt road Home Study Guide #2 (provided by Tiffani Flora of Indiana)

zip_iconDOWNLOAD Word files that can be edited



Of course there is a reason and an inspiration behind this story. Are you wondering how I know what it’s like in reform school?  You might want to READ THIS.