"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Sherman Alexie makes narrative voice seem totally effortless in this book. There was never a moment when I stopped believing Junior, or when I stopped liking him. Although the main character lives through some incredibly harrowing experiences in this short book, including the death of someone close to him, he relates it all in such a matter-of-fact way, never descending into melodrama or tragedy, even though his life experiences are very tragic. Humor is also used to good effect to keep the narrator from seeming to feel sorry for himself, and to keep the reader relating to experiences that,to many people, may feel alienating.
I think what I appreciated most about this book was the ability it gave me to go deeper into a lifestyle--life in poverty on a reservation--that is totally outside my frame of reference. I hope that teens who read this will have greater compassion for the "outsiders" in their own midst. I also think a lot of teens whose experiences, on the surface, don't seem to match Junior's would find experiences they could relate to. As a Native American who decides to attend school outside the Reservation, he never feels like he totally "belongs" in either place--not among his White classmates, nor among his tribe back home. This is a timeless teen theme, one that follows many people in various ways throughout their lives. I also think anyone who has had the experience of being an outsider, being part of a minority culture, or living in poverty would find a sense of understanding here.
This is a "frequently challenged" book, and the vulgarity in it is so minor that I have to just roll my eyes. Luckily, most others do the same and this book continues to enrich book clubs, classroom discussions, and individual lives. Oh, and the little cartoons are great, too. :)