Friday, October 2, 2015

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Artwork: Ellen Forney
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Little, Brown
Paperback Publication Date: April 1, 2009
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Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend and all-white school in the neighboring town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside himself that he never knew existed.

Inspired by his own experiences growing up, award-winning author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live.

 My Review

The Absolutely True Tale of a Part-Time Indian by award-winning author Sherman Alexie is a book that all millennials should read at least once in their lifetime, whether or not they read YA. Let me repeat that. Everyone who can read should read this book. The book is so full of life (and death) that anyone who's ever grown up will be able to find something they relate to in the short novel. Narrated by a quirky teenager named Junior who is living on an Indian reservation, Sherman Alexie's first Young Adult novel is an amusing book that will engage and entertain readers from cover to cover. 

When one reads True Diary, one is introduced to some of the most memorable characters in literature. Junior isn't your typical teenager. He's living in poverty on an Indian reservation, and he's pretty much hopeless. Everyone in his family and on the reservation was born and raised on the Spokane reservation, and no one has left. Junior wants to change that, so with a little encouragement, he decides to go to a better high school. With change, comes challenges, and Junior loses the only friend he's ever known, Rowdy. Rowdy doesn't take Junior's news of switching schools well, and the two go from being best friends to being enemies. But Junior (who goes by Arnold at his new school) meets some new people (Penelope, Gordy, Coach, and Roger) who at first don't understand him or his culture, but they help him realize his full potential in this coming-of-age tale.

The one thing about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian that had me hooked was the writing style. I love reading a book narrated by a male character because it seems like a rare trend in YA right now. But I especially enjoy reading male-narrated books if the narrator is witty and real. You get both of those qualities and more from Junior. He's very upfront about his life on the reservation and his new life at his new school. He made me laugh, smile, and cry with his emotional and bittersweet story. And there's a bonus! I adored the drawings and sketches that were scattered throughout the novel. They really made it feel like I was reading a teenager's diary, and everything just blended together perfectly to bring this book to life. 

I also loved the setting of Alexie's first YA novel. He drew from his own personal experiences, and set True Diary in two towns in the Pacific Northwest, Wellpinit, Washington and Reardan, Washington. Junior lives in Wellpinit, on the Spokane Indian reservation, but he decides to leave to attend a better school in Reardan, a town full of white farmers. Readers can really tell how he struggles in both towns after leaving the reservation and being the only Indian in a predominantly white school. While the novel is not full of imagery, readers will still have a very clear picture of what these two towns and schools look like.

Another thing that I loved about True Diary was the unpredictable plot. Junior never really had me on the edge of my seat because the book isn't a nerve-wracking story, and I was okay with that. Junior's story is just very realistic. The things that happen to him probably do happen to many Native Americans living on Indian reservations. However, I was always surprised by the events in the novel because there is just so much that happens. Life just happens to Junior and everyone on the reservation. There are things that Junior can't change, and he accepts that. It's sad to see him accept so much sadness, but he's a very strong kid to deal with everything that has been thrown at him (health problems, school, athletics, alcoholism, death, poverty, etc.)

Sherman AlexieAn award-winning author, poet, and filmmaker, Sherman Alexie was named on of GRANTA's Best Young American Novelists and has been lauded by the Boston Globe as "an important voice in American literature." One of the most well-known and beloved literary writers of his generation, his works of fiction, including Reservation Blues and short story collections Ten Little Indians and The Lone Ranger adn Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, have received numerous awards and citations. He lives in Seattle.

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