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Flight: A Novel Paperback – April 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A deadpan "Call Me Zits" opens the first novel in 10 years from Alexie (Smoke Signals, etc.), narrated by a self-described "time-traveling mass murderer" whose name and deeds unravel as this captivating bildungsroman progresses. Half-Indian, half-Irish, acne-beset Zits is 15: he never knew his alcoholic father; his mother died when he was six; his aunt kicked him out when he was 10 (after he set her sleeping boyfriend on fire because the boyfriend had been forcing Zits to have sex). Running away from his 20th foster home, Zits ends up, briefly, in jail; soon after, he enters a bank, shoots several people and is shot dead himself. Zits then commences time-traveling via the bodies of others, finding himself variously lodged in an FBI agent in the '70s (helping to assassinate radical Indian activists); a mute Indian boy at the Battle of Little Big Horn; an Indian tracker named Gus; an airplane pilot instructor (one of whose pupils commits a terrorist act); and his own father. Zits eventually comes back to himself and to an unexpected redemption. While the plot is wisp-thin, one quickly surrenders to Zits's voice, which elegantly mixes free-floating young adult cynicism with a charged, idiosyncratic view of American history. Alexie plunges the book into bracing depths. (Apr.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

His first novel in over a decade, Sherman Alexie's Flight winds themes of alienation, revenge, and forgiveness through its narrator's time-traveling adventures. Critics were impressed with the clever Zits: his thoughts and actions are both humorous and painfully genuine, the essence of troubled adolescence. However, reviewers complained about the lack of depth, of fully developed secondary characters, and of historical detail. Many critics also noted that the plot's swift pace and tidy ending were more appropriate for juvenile fiction. The New York Times, on the other hand, considered these elements part of the novel's charm. Though Alexie's latest effort may disappoint some readers, many will still find snatches of his trademark humor and moving prose.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; First Edition/First Printing edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170378
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By MCO on April 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have pretty much loved everything that I've read of Sherman Alexie's. He is absolutely brilliant, and his latest work is no exception. I found out about this book from a recent NPR interview with Mr. Alexie and bought it the next day. In a few short days, I was finished with it.

I'm not sure that it would have had such a strong impact on me if it hadn't been for the recent incident at VT. Such an event is difficult to make sense of, but reading this book about a person who justifies random murders in his head is eerily similar to what happened. Is killing ever all right? How many things do we justify to ourselves that may be in the scheme of things really unjustifiable?

What I was really in need of after something so awful was hope. This book helps give the reader hope that people can change; people can realize their mistakes and undo the brainwashing they have done to themselves.

In the end, a little bit of hope goes a long way, and this wonderfully written and insightful book manages to give just that. Please read it!!!
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Barkan on October 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Flight starts out strong with a narrator, Zits, whose cynicism and penchant for philosophy are dead on for a teenager trying to make sense of the world and of himself. Zits is on a quest for identity, empathy, compassion, and a little wisdom. But first he must come to terms with his desire for revenge against a world that treats him as a problem to be solved rather than a person to be loved. Throughout, Zits is charming, endearing, and funny.

However, the moment the time-traveling and body-hopping begins, the book slows to a crawl. Rather than pushing the narrative forward, these devices act as self-contained, motionless lessons about the cyclical nature of violence and the impact of history on the present. Zits is essentially passive through these episodes, with only the smallest ability to exercise his own will while some hidden god-like entity forces information into his eyes and empathy into his heart. Instead of acting to learn about these things on his own, understanding is essentially downloaded into him. And since the narrator is passive throughout all of this, the reader feels passive as well. The story becomes dull.

Worst is that the book implies that if the people in our society who are horribly disenfranchised could only understand the historical contexts (both societal and personal) that have made them disenfranchised, they'd stop being so angry and bitter about it, and may try to restart their lives with a new name and a new attitude. This is then topped off when Zits (again as if he's being manipulated by a divine force) lands in a foster home with a family that finally seems like they want to love and take care of him.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Edward A. Heinssen on October 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Sherman Alexie reaches out to every adolescent who has ever felt isolated, alone, or embarrassed about themselves. The protagonist, Michael (or "Zits") embodies the very essence of adolescent behavior: he lashes out against authority; he seeks acceptance and friendship from a boy that shares similar beliefs; he speaks in a tone and voice that is a perfect replica of most teens today; and, Zits searches for his identity at a point in his life which mirrors when most teens are uncertain of who they are. Each of these important life experiences offer the reader a chance to connect to this dynamic character.

The language that Sherman Alexie uses really is sophisticated, relatable and engaging. Zits uses foul language to protect himself. Basically, the language Zits uses serves as a defense mechanism, and in turn, shows his reluctance to open his heart. Zits usually reacts with statements like, "You bet your plopping a** I'm laughing at you," (15) when he wants to avoid conversations or agitate someone. This is by no means the crudest of his language usage, but for this review, I chose to keep it as clean as possible. Check it out to see what other hostile comeback responses Zits responds with.

As a future high school English teacher, I am a little reluctant to use this book during the beginning of my career because of the crude language used at times, but I would definitely recommend this book to all tenured teachers who want to share endless conversations about adolescent behavior.

For those readers out there that just want to curl up with an engaging quality read, I recommend this book to you as well.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mig Jants on June 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Flight" seems more a novella than a novel, considering it reads fairly quickly. This may simply be a result of the fact that the style of the book makes it so difficult to set down.

Taking a cue from coming-of-age forerunners like J.D. Salinger or even Twain, Alexie's new novel features an automatically loveable narrator and protagonist--he is an ignorant teen spouting every semblance of an idea that comes into his head. Liking the character Zits might seem strange at first, considering the awful thoughts of his that come spilling onto the page, but his ignorance gives him a certain license to honesty that allows me as a reader to learn more about this character than I would were he written under a 3rd person narration.

The progression--or more accurately, temporal digression--of the plot is easy to miss at first. Fortunately, though, if you don't get it immediately after the first time-change, Alexie is kind enough to state explicitly that Zits is in fact traveling backwards in time.

"Flight" is full of gruesome and disturbing imagery, but the book isn't concerned with race or culture in the way one might immediately think. It features characters from across a variety of different cultures and backgrounds who exhibit an entire spectrum of moral human behavior. Alexie isn't trying to point a finger at any people or group, but rather at a thought pattern. So while this book may technically be classified under Native-American literature, it is really simply a book about humanity and the chaotic world in which that heterogenous group exists.
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