Literary Friday: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Synopsis according to GoodReads:
"In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live."

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is stunningly honest, and humorously tragic (or tragically humorous). The style and general approach of the author to the reader reminds me of contemporary classics like The Outsiders. It makes for a quick and easy read, albeit an emotional one. The narrator's candor is never forced, and although more wise than I'd expect a teenage boy to be, his humility and apologetic stance about his Indian nature show that kind of awkward charm adolescents can possess. This made him largely believable, and his voice is entirely authentic.

The main character is easy to understand and love (and relate to), and I found myself wanting to follow his life past where the book ends. My take-away was that Indian life, on and off the rez, is filled with tragedy and a nearly-inescapable lack of hope. I honestly can't imagine the amount of courage it requires to follow your own hope, against your community and your world, when you have no idea what the consequences will truly be. It's a beautiful thing to see in YA novels (which usually project a more black-and-white moralistic message a la Disney). 

I wasn't deeply affected by the story, aside from wishing I could help (both the character, and the hopeless situation of the reservation) but I did thoroughly enjoy it, and I look forward to reading more Sherman Alexie novels.

I recommend this one for fans of contemporary classics (I'd say YA, but this is a sort of pre-modern YA book), truly honest main characters, coming of age in a very real and bittersweet way, and self-depricating humor.

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