As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

December 18, 2011


With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie's novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation's school -- and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school -- in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems -- all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Katie (who writes her own absolutely true diary of being a part-time reader)  

As Junior enters high school you can’t help but cheer for him.  He is the epic underdog.  Not only is he goofy and poor and small; but he has seizures, one friend, and sometimes nothing to eat.   He finds a turning point in his life when he gives one of his teachers a bloody nose.  Junior leaves his school on the ‘rez’ to go to a ‘white’ school where he will have a better chance to make something of himself.  As Junior enters another culture he finds himself a stranger to this new lifestyle, and also to the one he has at home. 

Being fourteen is hard enough, but add on to that losing your only friend, no one at your new school acknowledging you (except to make fun of you), family members dying, walking umpteen miles to school when there isn’t enough money for gas and no one picks you up hitch-hiking, and dad taking off for a drinking binge at Christmas.  For a boy in limbo between two worlds, trying to find an identity, Junior writes his story in a very witty and nonchalant way.  Fortunately, people stop ostracizing him when that many hard things happen in one year.  It turns out that he is a pretty good basketball player as well as a student.  People in both cultures befriend him and he finds his balance as a ‘part time Indian.’  He has an insightful perspective into a spectrum of human issues like alcoholism, poverty, racism, and even eating disorders.

 When I finally could put the book down I was in disbelief about all that happened.  To make it even more incredible, the book is based on real events from Sherman Alexie’s adolescents.  I was unaware that miles away from where I live someone could grow up having experiences like that.  Despite the somber nature of the many issues addressed in this book, I found myself laughing out loud and reading parts to friends.  Because this site is fairly squeaky-clean, I will give the warning that this book is not.  (See chart below).  I would not recommend it for anyone who has not hit middle school yet.  It has plenty of foul language and scenes, which perhaps endeared me to the virtue inside Junior a little more.  If you aren’t too nervous about the colorful rating, see for yourself how amazing Junior is with all that goes on around him.

 A review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the illustrations.  From the get-go Junior declares his love of drawing and reading cartoons.  Ellen Forney is the cartoonist for the book.  Her pictures often add more to the story line, or something more to laugh about.  Think DIARY OF A WIMPY KID with more maturity.   

Market: Young Adult on Up
Language:  moderate/foul
Sensuality: PG-13 to R
Violence: I didn’t know people could get beat up this much
Mature Themes: death, abuse, sexuality, identity, racism, poverty, alcoholism

Book formats:


Katie L. said...

Yay, Katie! I read this book for the first time about a month ago, and it became an instant favorite. It's on my "top 5 books everyone should read" list. It was full of humor, insight, gut-wrenching sadness, and that feeling of being torn between two worlds -- something that I think anyone who has ever grown up has faced.

Just a marvelous, marvelous read. I'm so glad you liked it and reviewed it here!

Kelly said...

This is one of my absolute favorites!! I met Sherman Alexie at a book signing in college and he had such amazing things to say about this book- and so much of it spans from his own life story. Thanks for the great review- it truly is one of the best!

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most amazing YA novels I've ever read! Terrific review, Katie.

Anonymous said...

One of the best novels of the last few years.