29 September 2007

Review:: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (novel)

I was initially drawn to this book because:
  • the main character is a boy and I don't want to focus only on girlie lit
  • the quotes of praise on the back are from such literary contributors as Neil Gaiman (god of creativity), Amy Sedaris (who gives her brother David his best work), and Alison Bechdel (creator of the phenomenal Fun Home)
So yeah, how could I not read it? Fortunately for me (and everyone who chooses to read this), this is the kind of book that grabs you from the first paragraph. You stop doing dishes and your homework just so you can finish it. It's not just because the humor sneaks up on you like an ice cube running down your back-- seriously! It makes you uncomfortable but you can't deny that you love it. After all, Alexie has a distinct knack for making situations hilarious, even when they're difficult to deal with.

The main character Arnold Spirit speaks of being Indian (as in feathers, not dots) and of being an underdog with candor and courage. Many angsty teens are bound to latch on to him as a stuttering but fierce hero of sorts. Watch out for the part at the beginning of the book when he discusses the worst part about being poor. That's a heart-wrenching performance piece right there.

Some argue that it goes too far in its portrayal of boozed-up, aggressive Native Americans. I am not Native American, so I really cannot make that call. I do think that the point is aimed more at being adventurous, challenging yourself, and leaving a world that isn't for you, even if that world is home.

8.5 of 9. It's a complete joy to read, but a couple of parts towards the end seemed a bit staged for a novel that usually flows so freely and naturally.
The drawings of the characters seamlessly and brilliantly contribute to the fabric of the characterization. Though the teen characters are archetypes, they seem fresh and more fleshed out than most teen novels.
The humor keeps it going fast!
If you like to laugh and maybe even cry at the same time, you're going to love this. It also helps if you don't mind reading about boners, zits, and death.
Like it? Try this!::
If you want to continue along the same vein of Indian, poor and humorous, try reading "Smoke Signals" by the same author.
Further Notes::
What I enjoyed about this book most of all is how it didn't cater to literary "shushers." It is what it is, and talks about what it wants to, with no apologies. Neil Gaiman says this book will be banned at some point. That's a good start to ensuring the immortality of this gorgeous novel, which may very well be working itself towards a sequel. Yeah!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. By Sherman Alexie. Little, Brown Young Readers, 2007. 240 pages. $16.99.