Monday, September 10, 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Book Review

This review contains NO SPOILERS. Enjoy (:

So the story of my decision to read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian isn't a fascinating one, but I'll share it with you anyway. I'm am currently on Barnes & Nobles email list. Among their numerous emails, occasionally I will receive the only thing I actually care about: coupons. I had noticed a few times that they sent me coupons for 40% off their "Must-Read for Teens" section which specified in the fine print that you had to go to your local B&N in order to find out your exact selection. Whenever I had gotten this email prior I just ignored it due to personal laziness to go into stores with little chance of finding something I'll want to spend money on. This time, however, I decided that 40% was a significant amount, and if TFIOS is considered a teen book, then there was a good chance I could find another love. "Must-Read for Teens" can be rather pricey as well, so I thought it'd be worth checking out. From my local B&N's selection I omitted books I already owned (like TFIOS, Looking For Alaska, The Book Thief), books I had no interest in reading (vampire books), and I stumbled across The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I recognized the name Sherman Alexie because I had one of his short stories "Breaking and Entering." I chose it as my book, brought it home, began reading it, and found it hard to put down. And that is the journey of how I obtained and eventually read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

(photographed: Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

The back cover description:

"Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacksl ife with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed."

The first thing I want to say about this novel is that I found it to be an enjoyable read. Now that that's out of the way, my first impression of this book was slight shock that it was a must-read for teens (the teens part, not the must-read part). It wasn't only that this book had drawings on it every few pages, but it reminded me of something I would have read in the fourth grade. (No insult to Alexie, because I read Harry Potter in the fourth grade and it's a well-known fact that I'm Potterhead.) But as I read through the first few chapters I found myself beginning to wonder if this book was just going to be fun teen book, or more than just that.

The narrator kept me going. I found Junior's voice to be somewhat sweet and funny at the same time. If it weren't for that, I probably would have put the book down to finish another day/week/year. But I kept reading and I'm glad I did. Junior, though entirely different, reminded me of Charlie from The Perks of Being A Wallflower. (They both cry a lot.)

At about half to three-quarters of the way through the book, I was beginning to connect with it, more so than on the basic level of finding something amusing. There was heart in the narrator and in his story, and I needed to know he was going to be okay. Junior's need for hope became by need for hope.

As I finished up the novel, I could feel the wheels in my head turning and that's when I know I just read something of personal value. It made me stretch back, sit quietly, and reflect on the friendships I've made throughout my entire life and the sense of community and familial ties. I thought about Junior's drawings, and how they weren't just illustrations to keep an adolescent's mind interested, but that Junior was right about how when you draw a picture as opposed to writing in a foreign language, everyone can understand it to a certain extent.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was a surprisingly pleasant read. And though it's language and style is very basic as one would expect of an elementary/secondary school level book, I can agree that it is a must read for a much wider range of age groups. If I could go back to fourth grade, I would tell fourth grade Stephanie to put down all the Cam Jansen mystery books and pick up The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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