- Age Range: 12 - 17 years
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Lexile Measure: 600L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 12, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0871138018
- ISBN-13: 978-0316013680
- ASIN: 0316013684
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,891 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hardcover – September 12, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7–10—Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with water on the brain, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist's grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney's simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. Reluctant readers can even skim the pictures and construct their own story based exclusively on Forney's illustrations. The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner. Alexie's tale of self-discovery is a first purchase for all libraries.—Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork with a decent jumpshot, spends his time lamenting life on the "poor-ass" Spokane Indian reservation, drawing cartoons (which accompany, and often provide more insight than, the narrative), and, along with his aptly named pal Rowdy, laughing those laughs over anything and nothing that affix best friends so intricately together. When a teacher pleads with Arnold to want more, to escape the hopelessness of the rez, Arnold switches to a rich white school and immediately becomes as much an outcast in his own community as he is a curiosity in his new one. He weathers the typical teenage indignations and triumphs like a champ but soon faces far more trying ordeals as his home life begins to crumble and decay amidst the suffocating mire of alcoholism on the reservation. Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt. A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure. Younger teens looking for the strength to lift themselves out of rough situations would do well to start here. Chipman, Ian
Top customer reviews
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I was hooked immediately. The author made you feel like you were part of his world even though most us have never been closer to a reservation than seeing advertising for a casino on TV. I recommend this book to anyone with teenagers. They would benefit from seeing the perspective of someone they might not encounter in their everyday life and maybe reevaluate how they treat people from other cultures.
This semi-autobigraphical YA novel follows the adventures of Arnold Spirit, AKA Junior. Junior is a Spokane Indian who lives on the reservation. Born with hydrocephalus, Junior is a 14-year-old boy who dreams of being a cartoonist, and uses cartoons to deal with his feelings regarding his dysfunctional family, poverty, community, and the world at large.
Arnold’s life changes when he decides he wants to leave the reservation and attend a different school, where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
This book is fairly short, but touches on a lot of topics such as poverty, race relations, alcoholism, enforced governmental segregation, and how one person seeking to better themselves can feel like a betrayal to others in a tight-knit community. It manages to make its points without being preachy, and while maintaining a sense of humor even while navigating losses and tragedies.
The book does dip into (what I would consider typical) 14-year-old boy issues, such as masturbatory skills and the sometimes awkward timing of erections, but isn’t unnecessarily explicit.
4 out of 5 stars.
What a great story, it is an emotional roller coaster. This book makes you laugh and cry, makes you feel bad for those on the rez but want to be a part of them and their tough life, makes you glad to be part of the white community and their privilege but embarrassed by our racism and how alone we are in a world full of people.
I want to write more but I do not want to give spoilers even if they are vague. I have a feeling that I will be thinking of this book often and will read it again in the near future.
My best summary I could give is a quote from Junior in the chapter titled "And a Partridge in a Pear Tree"...
"It was a beautiful and ugly thing"
This book hits home about the real world and real life among Native Americans. The options are: Stay on the Rez with the status quo or move out to "white man's land" and become part of that society. Covering as a light comedy, this book offers insight to the reader that isn't normally given. Sherman Alexie writes as though he's been there - that's because he has.