Book #65 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Task: A National Book Award winner
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that was banned at some point
I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this book. It’s about a teenage boy struggling to fit in at a new high school. That isn’t the sort of thing that appeals to me. But in this semi-autobiographical tale of Arnold “Junior” Spirit, Alexie offers a unique perspective that is entertaining, touching, and thought-provoking. It isn’t a long story, but he explores issues of race, bullying, substance abuse, poverty, and sexuality as well as the meaning of friendship and the general awkwardness of being a teenage boy.
I listened to this on CD, so I didn’t see the illustrations, but I think I’m okay with that. I’m not much of a cartoon person to begin with, and my understanding is that Alexie didn’t do the illustrations himself. If I happen upon a hard copy, I’ll probably take a look, but it’s not something I will actively seek out. As it is, I highly recommend the audio version. Alexie narrates, and the rhythm and flow of his Native American speech patterns add a lot to the story, making Junior’s emotional struggles feel genuine and straightforward.
It angers me that this book has been challenged and even flat-out banned in at least one school district. And kudos to those involved in getting free copies into the hands of students who were the victims of that move. I would recommend this book to any teen, but especially to ones who could use either representation of or exposure to the issues faced by Native American students. Evidently, there are quite a few adults who could stand to read it as well.