Little, Brown and Company: NY, 2007.
Arnold/Junior, a stuttering brain-damaged (but smart) target of a teen pours out his life and soul in his writings and his cartoons. On the advice of a teacher, Junior transfers from his reservation's school to an all white high school in a nearby town. A bold and courageous move, but necessary for his future, considering the social devastation surrounding him. His best friend is furious, feeling abandoned. Risk taking is required to gain acceptance and friends in his new environment, while still residing on the reservation. His risks pay off, gain him respect and confidence, although personal losses make it difficult to continue.
The style is quirky and forthright. The beginning is odd but doesn't take long to hook the reader. Junior's descriptions of his life are painfully direct at times. His humor and cartoons lighten the sadness, though. It is refreshing that Junior is able to gain acceptance at his new school, though it isn't automatically given. He's surprised by the difference in rules for the separate communities, and he learns that his own openness and willingness to adjust to the new rules will win friends. Poverty, teen sensuality, and deaths of loved ones make it a book for mature teens. It is heavy in places, but has some realizations that give hope. Two in particular are the different tribes to which he belongs and the reference to his being a nomad in modern times.
I know that there has been lots of talk about and acclaim for this book, at least on the internet. I've been eyeing it at the library for a while. It is a quick and satisfying read. Good enough that I plan to read more of Alexie's works. It has a more hopeful perspective on poverty and prejudice than most. Hopeful in that circumstances can change.
The reading level and length should not be daunting for any teen.
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