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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

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…

Overall Book Review:

This is an important book. Important for young men coming of age, struggling with their identities and wondering how to overcome life’s difficulties. Important for young people who have no personal experience with the challenges of racism and crushing poverty. Important for young people who experience racism and struggle to overcome it. 

If I was reading this as a teenage boy, I would laugh my head off throughout the whole book. I hope I would also gain some empathy along the way. As an adult reader, I found the story incredibly poignant and eye-opening–to the struggles of kids living on reservations who want to get away from poverty, alcohol abuse, and no educational opportunities. It also reveals the struggles of kids who don’t want to get away. Both are real, and both are very, very hard.

Junior tells his story in a forthright, charming, even innocent way, despite the language, sex, violence, and alcohol abuse that are part of his daily life. He speaks of hopelessness a lot, but the way he tells his story gives me hope. Although I found the book to be heart-wrenching from beginning to end, I’m very glad I read it. I wish Junior the best of luck in his future endeavors. He’s on the right track.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  10 religious exclamations; 6 mild obscenities; 9 derogatory names; 10 scatological words; 36 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture; 1 f-word derivative.

Violence/Gore:  A character is slapped in the face several times; a character puts a dog down by shooting it; a character shows signs of physical abuse; a character is beaten by several grown men, specifically kicked in the crotch several times; a character throws a book and accidentally hits and breaks a teacher’s nose; reference is made to beating children in order to train them; several (3) fistfights take place with minor injuries and little blood; a character is hit in the head with a quarter and bleeds profusely; a character is killed by a drunk driver; two characters are killed in a house fire; a character is shot in the face; a character hangs himself. 

Sex/Nudity:  Characters kiss briefly; a breastfeeding reference is made; pornography and masturbation are referred to twice; cleavage is referred to; erections are referred to three times, once in an extended conversationas a metaphor; reference is made to “staying out of someone’s pants”; sex is referred to (euphemistically) in a crude way twice; homosexuality is referred to in a few separate instances.

Mature Subject Matter:

Alcoholism, suicide, death of family members, death of friends, bullying, physical abuse of spouse and children, racism, discrimination, extreme poverty, eating disorders, homosexuality, drug/alcohol abuse, suicide.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Several adult characters abuse alcohol; DUI, death of family members related to alcohol use and abuse; characters are known to be drug users; marijuana is referred to; some minors consume alcohol.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mother would often find me curled up in a corner, avoiding chores with a book–or two. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a large selection of YA books. I had children’s books and adult literature to choose from. I’ve come to love YA fiction as an adult and read almost nothing else when I read for pleasure–any genre will do.