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4.3 out of 5 stars
Flight: A Novel
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
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
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. When this happens, the reader is happy for Zits, and there's no question that this is what Zits deserve, but at the same time it's uncertain whether or not this is something he has earned or achieved, or if he's just gotten lucky. And if it is luck or heavenly will that lands him there, then what is the lesson for people who feel the world, God, and Fate never cut them a break? What does that say about the nature of justice?

Still, the book is not awful. It is well written and the pages turn quickly. Anyone (and teenagers in particular) will enjoy and benefit from Zits's philosophizing about everything from the nature of obscenity to the righteousness of revenge.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
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
on June 19, 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Zits is a half white half Native American orphan who bounces from foster home to foster home. At least this is how the novel begins. Join the cursing narrator Zits as he travels in unexpected ways, taking on different viewpoints as he searches for a home and a sense of peace.

Alexie's writing is simple but this is only because the author does not need big words to get his meaning across. It is written in the first person and Zits would certainly get along well with Holden Caulfield. Flight is less than 200 pages and it is accessible writing makes it a quick read.

Though the novel is short and simply written this does mean it is a simple book. Flight raises many issues that are worth consideration: is killing ever justified?, what does it mean to have a home?, shame, poverty, issues of race, social stratification, and the complexity of people as they make their way in the world.

For all the teachers out there I would recommend teaching this book at the junior high and high school level. You may receive some flak because of the language use but it is viscerally written to emphasize Zits' character rather than shock value. It is important to read about cultural viewpoints different than the mainstream to gain a better understanding of the iniquities of the world. It is only if these iniquities are highlighted that social change can begin. It is the job of the teacher to raise social awareness. It also has a discussion section at the back of the book which you can use to help build lesson plans.

Review By Eli Steier
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 6, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
FLIGHT is the latest novel by Seattle-based author, Sherman Alexie, and is probably his best yet! Alexie's works are always rich with double entendre and poetic depth. He has the power to make you laugh so hard you cry, and then cry so hard that you laugh. As an author, he mixes bitterness with joy, all the while looking at human tragedy and its power to make or break you, or, in this case, provide enough material to induce powerful fantastical experiences.

Alexie transfers the experience of alienated, biracial identity to main character, Zits (the name speaks for itself), a half Native/half Irish young teenager who has been through the foster care system numerous times, never knew his biological father (his link to his Native identity), and therefore never felt a sense of himself as Native or Irish, but an ambigiously ethnic "other." Zits deals with turbulent experiences in his foster homes (including sexual abuse at the hands of his foster father, and numerous violent episodes with others), through escaping into a fantasy world, where he has the power to time travel and takes on the persona of numerous characters, including a Caucasian vigilante and a Native boy who has lost the power to speak. Powerful and beautiful.........I can already see this being adapted for the screen.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
A Beginning that shakes and nerves the reader and an end that satisfies what we have just endured. Sherman Alexie's Flight, is an exceptional piece of literature. It breaks apart any sense of restrictive barriers to create this connection of reader and "Zits", the main character. The character development seen throughout the work is brillant; there are connections that gradually develop between the reader and Zits. He is simply more than just the narrator, his voice narrates the thoughts that run through an adolescent mind, an angered heart, and through an individual who is lost within him/herself.

This book becomes one set on profanity, to become one that uses profanity to achieve innonence. Though Zits is planning a horrific act of violence; his innonence at first doesn't allow him to realize the true extent of what crosses his mind. That is why Alexie takes Zits and the reader back in time to witness the realities of pain, hatred, and violence. Zits journey back in time isn't the only journey taken. Alexie is addressing the current state of society and how its plague by forgetfulness and that there is this strong need for us to be reminded of what the right ideals are, what hope is, and how the answer resides within ourselves. An exceptional book by an exceptional author.

As a future educator there is a dire need to teach this book. Being allowed to do so, may be another story. But I believe all language is strong language. Each word's meaning changes in relation to the next or in different contexts; but, as Sherman Alexie breaks down certain barriers or literary conventions with this novel, maybe as a future educator, I can do so as well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book was a fantastic adventure. This having been my first experienc with Sherman Alexie i wasn't quite sure what to expect. what i found was a suprisingly funny and lovable main character whose very soul is shaken to the core after his experinece of being juggled from foster home to foster home. Alexie really gets to the crux of what happens to an innocent kid who falls through the cracks of the system when his parents have either abandoned him or are ripped out from underneath him. This book made me laugh out loud, cry, and really think about the place and priority (or lack thereof) of children in the foster care system, especially those who are of a minority. Brilliant book, simply billiant!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book was not what I expected; Flight is not your typical coming-of-age story. The half-native-American protagonist calls himself Zits (because everyone else does). Zits is a delinquent--and who could blame him. His alcoholic father abandoned him at birth; his mother died when he was a toddler. Bounced between orphanages, uncaring foster parents, and jail, Zits is an angry young man struggling to find an identity. The only semblance of role model material in his life is homeless native-Americans who live on the streets and imbibe illicit drugs.

Then Zits meets Justice, a manipulative and charismatic adolescent. Justice inspires Zits, and Zits believes that he will follow Justice anywhere. However, Justice has less than benevolent aspirations.

For the first 50 or so pages, the story arc of this book follows a foreseeable path. Then the events turn radical, and the reader is taken--quite by surprise--on a spiritual journey. The journey is a montage of historical events illustrating the struggles of Native Americans in this country. The events are visceral; Sherman's style delivers savage imagery with no remorse.

It is not enough to say that Zits is merely a witness to these historical events; during his spiritual quest, Zits experiences the events through the eyes of different characters. He has access to their memories and is acutely attuned to their feelings and thoughts. Numerous perspectives are examined in detail during this ever-changing scape of nightmarish surroundings. And the most beautiful aspect of the novel is that the reader witnesses changes manifest in the protagonist as the events progress. Highly original and delivered brutally.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Sherman Alexie's Flight reminds us all that we seek love and need love. The novel's protagonist, "Zits" is a wayward teenager who is victimized by the foster-care system and as a result wrestles with shame, alienation and self. Zits draws the reader in as he narrates this tale with a matter-of-fact tone and a sardonic sense of humor that only a teenager of his circumstance could own. After another one of Zit's attempts at running away, the altruistic Officer Dave catches him; Officer Dave is Zits only true friend. In describing Dave, Zits claims, "the wounded always recognize the wounded. We can smell each other." These open wounds are the catalysts that turn a routine visit to kid jail into something more sinister; it is on this visit, that the susceptible Zits comes under the spell of another Juvenile Delinquent named "Justice" and decides to become his brother in arms. While faced with a critical decision, initiated by the charismatic Justice, Zits's conscience soars-literally. We find our selves taken along for the ride as Zits snatches bodies and thrusts us into a series of alternate consciousness. We become an FBI agent, an Indian boy, an Indian tracker, an adulterous man caught with his paramour and even Zits's own father. Aside from gripping action, all this body snatching serves a purpose; these characters act as vehicles for Zits to come to terms with his dubious and heart breaking past. If you want to know whether or not Zits follows Justice's flawed and mad reasoning to his own death, read this novel! Although getting to the destination is riddled with turbulence, it is well worth the flight.
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