April 25, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

In this amazing, mature-audiences-only story of one boy's growing up, author Sherman Alexie pulls the reader into the life of a smart, brave, troubled boy, Junior, a Spokane Indian. Junior wants to make something of his life, and gets his parents to enroll him in the all-white high school in the farm town down the road, where he can start fresh, and have more opportunities. The problem is that he doesn't end up fitting in anywhere he turns. On the reservation, they hate him for leaving, and in his new school, though he is accepted, he never really feels like he fits in or belongs.

This story is not one to be taken lightly. Based on the author's own experiences, this book explores some difficult issues of race, the problems facing Native Americans on reservations, feelings of exclusion and loss, and death. It is a story that will stay in your head well after you have finished reading it, long after your tears have dried. I would not recommend this book for elementary school students in general, though some could surely appreciate and understand the story. Some parts are a bit vulgar, though in a way most boys will understand and appreciate more than their mothers would like. It's billed as a Teen book, but adults will appreciate it too.

One of the coolest things about this book is the way it is illustrated. The illustrator, Ellen Forney, filled the book with cartoons that were supposedly drawn by Junior as he told his story. The drawings help to tell the story, bring it alive, and make you laugh your head off.