All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

Mar 30, 2019

This book. I had a friend recommend it to me a couple of years ago. I hadn't heard anything about it before, and I didn't hear anything else about it after that. But something made me keep it on my to-read list, and I kept circling back around to it until I finally had time (thank you, no reading goals!) to listen to it.

And, friends, this book. I loved it so much. I think it might end up being like Navigating Early for me where you might not love it as much, but then please don't tell me about it because it will make my heart hurt if you don't.

The story grabbed me right away because it was so wildly different from anything I'd ever read before: Perry Cook has lived all twelve years of his life at the Blue River Co-Ed Correctional Facility. It's an unusual arrangement to be sure, but Warden Daugherty is one to think outside the box, and it has worked out quite well for everyone. And now his mom is about to get paroled, which means the two of them are making plans for life outside Blue River.

But then everything comes grinding to a halt. The district attorney, Thomas Van Lear, looks over Perry's mom's case and is disturbed to discover that Perry has been living at a jail for all of these years. Not only is he concerned for Perry's safety and well-being, but he also wonders if Jessica has truly served out her sentence by being granted special treatment to raise her son. In a quick turn of events, Jessica's hearing is put on hold and Perry is removed from the facility and placed in the Van Lear home temporarily. It rocks Perry's world and feels unjust. Even realizing that his best friend, Zoe, is Van Lear's stepdaughter doesn't make things better. He misses his mom and his many mentors and the life he has always known.

But he tries to remember Big Ed's advice: "'Win-win.' That's Big Ed's . . . motto for being a successful resident. The first win means you count all small, good things that happen to you every day . . . The second win means you do things that bring victories to others. I've heard Big Ed say it at least a hundred times: No matter where you live, you have a community of some kind, and you can be a contributor." And so that's exactly what Perry does. And as he looks for the good and listens to the experiences of the residents for a school assignment, he realizes that there's always more to someone's story than you might think at first glance, and if he can help others to see that, then maybe, just maybe, he can use that to reunite with his mom on the outside.

See? Different, right? And you might think that a boy living in a correctional facility wouldn't be believable, but it totally was, and I just loved Perry so much from the get-go. And I liked that he was who he was because of the environment he was raised in: people had made mistakes but they were trying turn around their lives and make things right, and they passed on a lot of wisdom in the process.

One of the things I really appreciated in this book was that Mr. Van Lear was not a clear-cut bad guy. You kind of wanted to hate him because he was so insensitive and rigid, but at the same time, he was doing what he truly thought was right, and you couldn't blame him for that. I think it takes real talent to create a believable character you can be sympathetic towards even as he continues to hurt the main character.

I also really liked that there were a few short, infrequent chapters told from Jessica's point of view. It's fairly unusual to get an adult's perspective in a middle grade novel, but it worked and added just a little more depth to the story.

In the midst of all of Perry's anxiety about his mom and his new situation, there was a little secondary plot between Perry and the school bully, Brian Morris. And again, just like with Mr. Van Lear, Brian wasn't one-dimensional. Even as he was being mean to Perry, he was showing another side of himself, and when things finally resolved between them, it wasn't hard to accept.

I did end up having one issue with the plot, and it was fairly significant because it involved Jessica's sentence and Perry's father. I won't go into detail here because there was a bit of a mystery that I wouldn't want to ruin. But I will say that in spite of some rather gaping holes, I still loved this book. I can't explain myself. I don't know why with some stories, a similar oversight would have been unforgivable, but here I was completely willing to turn a blind eye and extend my belief. It doesn't make sense, but I think it must have something to do with the characters. I loved them all so much that I guess I was fine with an unresolved issue here and there. Reading is like that sometimes. In this case, I connected with the characters, and it made all the difference.

Content note: There is some mild swearing. And also, some of the subject matter might initiate some mature questions.


  1. This was already on my list, so now I'll push it up higher.

    Does Maxwell know that Guts and Glory is a series? I haven't read the others, so I'd be interested in his opinion.

    1. Yes, he does! I think he'll definitely read some more of them!


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