House Arrest Summary & Study Guide

K.A. Holt

House Arrest

  • 60-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 52 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an English instructor with a PhD from NYU
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House Arrest Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 60-page guide for “House Arrest” by K.A. Holt includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 52 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Cyclical Nature of Human Experience and The Impact of Poverty.

Plot Summary

House Arrest is K. A. Holt’s 2015 novel in free verse. Narrated in the first-person voice of 12-year-old Timothy, the novel is comprised of fifty-two weeks of journal entries that he is required to write as part of his probation for stealing a wallet to pay for his infant brother Levi’s medication. The novel is divided by seasons.

During winter, Timothy begins his journal and weekly meetings with his probation officer, James, and his court-appointed psychologist, Mrs. Bainbridge. Asked to explain why he stole the wallet, Timothy instead describes his life circumstances. Levi suffers from trachea problems that require a tube in his throat for him to breathe. Medications for his condition cost close to $1,500 a month, and Levi needs twenty-four-hour care. Since their father abandoned the family shortly after Levi’s birth, their mother, Annie, struggles to provide adequate care for Levi, pay the mounting bills, and watch over Timothy. Timothy stole the wallet because he felt trapped and desperate. At the end of winter, Levi becomes gravely ill and is checked into intensive care.

At the beginning of spring, while Levi is hospitalized, Timothy stays with his neighbors, the Jimenezes, and experiences normal family life. Though he feels conflicted about returning home, he shares a close bond with his brother. He also develops a strong bond with James, who begins anonymously delivering care packages to Timothy’s family, and Mrs. Bainbridge, who encourages him to name his emotions so that he can understand, manage, and channel them productively. Mrs. Bainbridge also urges Timothy to confront his anger toward his father. Meanwhile, Levi gets a new nurse, Mary, who is verbally abusive, believes Levi should be institutionalized, and reports the family to Child Protective Services (CPS) for medical neglect. Increasingly desperate to solve his family’s problems, Timothy considers applying for the Carnival of Giving, a charitable program at his school, and researches doctors for Levi. He finds Dr. Sawyer, whose ground-breaking surgery solves problems like Levi’s, but he is located in Cincinnati. (Timothy’s family lives in Texas.)

Annie continues to struggle financially during summer, and though CPS drops its case against the family, the organization suggests, as Mary did, that Levi be placed in an institution, which government services will pay for. Timothy’s desperation and anger spiral, and he punches a wall. He begs his mother not to send Levi away, and she explodes, telling him that she does not want to but has only terrible options to choose from and fears for Levi’s safety every day. Timothy continues to send emails to Dr. Sawyer but receives no response. In a positive development, Annie witnesses Mary verbally abusing Levi and fires her, but this leaves the family with fewer nursing hours as Levi’s old nurse, Marisol, is only able to return in a part-time capacity.

During fall, Annie agrees for the family to participate in the Carnival of Giving. She sells the family home and moves them into an apartment. Timothy becomes aware that his father has been calling the house when he overhears his mother telling his father that Timothy will not want to speak with him. Timothy’s family is approved to be the recipients of the Carnival of Giving, prompting a classmate to refer to Levi as a “retard” (220). Timothy punches him and is later relieved that his angry outburst did not jeopardize his family’s eligibility to be the carnival’s recipients. At the carnival, Timothy is thrilled to enjoy a fun outing with his mother and brother and their support network, including James, Mrs. Bainbridge, the Jimenez family, and Marisol. He gives a speech sharing his admiration for his brother’s strength and determination, and the carnival raises more than $15,000 for his family. Around the same time, Dr. Sawyer returns Timothy’s email, explaining that he had been away recruiting doctors and that he has forwarded the family’s name to a charitable agency that funds low-income families in need of Dr. Sawyer’s surgery.

Just as everything seems to be looking up, Levi becomes gravely ill. Since Annie has to work and no nurse is available, she leaves Timothy with Levi. Levi suffers a severe blockage, and Timothy calls an ambulance that never arrives. In desperation, he steals Mr. Jimenez’s car to drive Levi to the hospital. In the process, he saves his brother’s life but violates his probation and is returned to juvenile detention. In his final journal entries, Timothy discloses that Levi will be going to Cincinnati to see Dr. Sawyer. Though Timothy will be at juvenile detention indefinitely, everything he worked for has happened. In the last stanza, Timothy is told he has a phone call. He picks up the phone and hears his father’s voice on the other end. He takes a deep breath and accepts the call.

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