Monday, January 14, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney


I recommend this book for: grade 8 and up

Junior is an outcast on the Spokane reservation for several reasons - he was born with fluid on the brain, which caused all sorts of physical problems. He has to wear ugly, lopsided glasses, he has seizures, and his body is lopsided. But he has other problems too - poverty, an alcoholic father, a sister who lives in the basement doing nothing, and Junior himself is the constant target of bullies on the rez. Still, he accepts it until a conversation with a teacher prompts him to do something no one else ever has - start attending the white school 20 miles away instead.

Instantly, Junior goes from being an outcast to a traitor. He's ostracized at his new school for all the same reasons he was on the rez on top of his race, and the reservation people (even the adults) begin to ignore him completely. Even his former best friend hates his guts. Things come to a head when he makes the basketball team at his new school and they play a game at the reservation school.

As with most great stories, there's a lot more going on here than Junior's personal life. There's a lot of tragedy but also some hope for a young, slightly vulgar, talented young man who wants something better for himself than what he sees happening to his family members. There are a lot of serious topics addressed, sometimes lightened with Junior's funny cartoons. It wasn't one of my favorite books of the year, but it was enjoyable and went into a few places that YA fiction tends not to go, so it's definitely worth reading.

From full-time reviewers.

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