Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plot Summary:
Life for Arnold Spirit (aka.Junior), on the Spokane Indian Reservation, is not at all glamorous. Not only does he have a bunch of medical problems, alcoholic relatives, mediocore access to education, lives in a run down trailer, and is the number one target on every bullies list (even the adults), he is also very lonely except for his grandmother. Junior is not only embarrassed by the poverty that has enveloped his family, home, and community, he longs for something greater where he can forget about the problems at home and within himself. Thankfully, the one outlet Junior can rely on to to relieve all the frustration and anguish is drawing. Just when life cannot get anymore "exciting," Junior has been accepted into an all white school that will require him to leave the "Rez," which brings a lot of uproar from the community.  Moreover, when he falls in love/lust with Penelope (whose father is a huge racist), his life takes even more interesting twists than he expected. Of all people to be on a basketball team, Junior is chosen to take on a task that is close to impossible since he has no physical talent other than outrunning the bullies on the reservation.

Critical Evaluation:
Sherman Alexie is probably one the greatest, and well-known, Native American in the United States. Although known for his adult fiction books, Alexie has written a book/memoir for teens to convey that no matter who we are and where we come from, we always have the choice to better ourselves. This story is absolutely hysterical simply because Alexie takes a "sensitive" issue and provides another aspect how history always manages to repeat itself. Through the use of cartoon bubbles and witty dialogue, Alexie uses these tools to express non PC (politically incorrect) thoughts in manner that makes them almost ridiculous.  Also readers who are unfamiliar with the issues that have been plaguing the Native Americans such as poor housing, limited access to resources, the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), and continued isolation of these people, will be humbled by this well written account of one Native American teen. This book is filled with tons of information that would be great for any teen book club and as part of any school curriculum, especially when students are learning about American History.

Information about the Author:
Sherman Alexie is Arnold Spirit (this novel is based on his life). According to his website, Alexie planned on becoming a doctor, but ended up giving that up since he kept fainting in Anatomy and enrolled in creative writing. Alexie excelled in writing and has written numerous award winning titles such as: Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven and Reservation Blues.  In fact, Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, was turned into a movie, entitled Smoke Signals, that one acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival. Alexie has also received many awards for his poetry and he is actually an accomplished public speaker, director, and comedian. In 2010, he won the Faulkner Award for Fiction (War Dances), and his first young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, won the National Book Award in 2007 and the audiobook of this titled won the Odyssey Award in 2009. Alexie continues to make a difference by encouraging dialogue between the many ethnic groups that make up this country.
Teen Lit for Guyd, Teen Humor

Reading/Interest Level:
Grades 9 & up

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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