Monday, July 29, 2013

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

This was a book I had seen before, in bookstores and on lists of good books to read, but had always ignored it because of the cover since, well, whenever I saw it I thought "Cowboys vs Indians? Pass, not my thing" and ironically it was the coverflip of the book that got me interested in it (for those who don't want to read the whole article, which is odd since you obviously want to read a book review, it's changing the cover of books if the author was of the other gender and how you think the marketing would have been done differently). This is ironic because that coverflip completely misrepresents the book and the book's actual, more abstract cover is closer to the real thing, although funny enough the blog where I pulled the cover image from seems to agree with me, having the book come off as "the problems of a girl" instead of "the problems of a guy" does feel just a bit more interesting and appealing to me. Hmm. In any case, shortly after that I saw it at the library, grabbed it, and put it high up on my to-read pile just to make sure I actually got through it this time and wasn't turned off by the cover again.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie Art by Ellen Forney

Summary: Junior lives on the Rez with his family and few friends and one day just gets fed up with his school and how his entire future is a bit hopeless and switches to the all-white school over 20 miles away to try and change his life.

The Good: Junior is more mature than realistically most kids would be at his age but I think that was a necessary choice since with all of the things going on in his life the book needs a more mature narrater who can pick up on and explain the situation to the reader a bit more fully than they might have (especially since the target age group is 12-16 year olds, I know that I would have missed one or two things at that age if Junior hadn't explained them). I also don't mind this choice since I ended up really enjoying this story and how it never shied away from the complicated parts of Junior's life and didn't necessarily try to provide solutions where none actually exist. Yet the story also didn't forget to show the good parts of Junior's life as well, such as how even though his parents were drunks they did love him and care for him as best as they can, that he loved them back and that this wasn't a bad thing at all, just another complicated part of his life. And I was also surprised by how much I liked the illustrations, not really on a technical or aesthetically level (although the notes in the back about how they chose all the different styles to include made me appreciate them more) but they just worked well with the story and felt like a natural part of it, not as if it had been added in later but as if it had been planned from the very start.

The Bad: I'm a little torn on how it ended, while things have changed in Junior's life for good and for ill in the end it felt like still not a lot had changed. I'm not sure what could have been done differently however, for Junior to have been at a crossroads in his life where he could have made major changes he would have needed to be much older, say about to go to college, and I don't think the story would have worked as well if it was set over so many years, I suppose I would have just liked this story to have ended on a definitive event instead of the "life goes on" ending it had which is ultimately the most realistic one it could have had. 

In the end I'm giving this book a 4 out of 5 for being a book I truly enjoyed and think would actually be a great book for middle/high schoolers to read, one I certainly would have enjoyed much more than many that I had to read, although I don't think I'll be picking up a copy for myself since it's not a book I think I'll feel the need to reread anytime soon.

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