Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mock Printz: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN-13: 978-0316013680
Starred review in: Horn Book, PW, Kirkus, SLJ, VOYA

How many times have we read a book and thought, "Wow, that's a great memoir, but not a very good YA novel?" Fear not this semi-autobiographical tale, for it is a great memoir AND a great YA novel. Alexie's protagonist is geeky artist Arnold "Junior" Spirit, a Native American boy living on a reservation just outside Spokane, WA. When a teacher encourages Junior to leave the reservation and go to a better school he takes the idea and runs with it, demanding to be enrolled the next day at an all-white school twenty miles away. At his new school he is "Arnold" rather than "Junior" and after a few trials and tribulations he ends up with a sort-of girlfriend, a philosophical, brutally honest book addict for a friend, and a spot on the school basketball team.

Junior's life seems to be one big drama after another, with several major character deaths, questions of identity, and breaking and forming of friendships. What saves this novel from being gloom and doom is Junior's wonderful voice, which is both humorous and matter-of-fact. Junior never tries to glamorize his impoverished life. He is a character in two worlds, both accepting and rejecting his poverty and heritage. At a time when most junior high students have enough to deal with just with friends, crushes, and school, Alexie throws in the worry and furor experienced by Junior's close-knit Indian community when Junior leaves to go to a white school. Ellen Forney's illustrations compliment the text very well. There is much pathos here, but the use of humor alongside tragedy will make you think of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes or Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story.

Reviewed by: Carlie, BCCLS


Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVED this book. An amazing journey of self discovery. I liked the honest feeling of the friendship that hurt as much as it helped. Almost a modern day Shakespeare with the use of humor essential to the tragedy of modern life.

BookWyrm said...

I'm with Beth on this one. It was so real when I read it and the comic doodles just pushed it up a notch. Going into this, I did not expect it to be as deep and painful as well as hillariously funny as it was.
I was stuck somewhere I didn't want to be when I read this book and it not only got me through the afternoon, it took me out of that place for as loong as my nose was stuck in the pages.