Who? Arnold Spirit… or Junior to his friends and, after this book, I feel like we are friends. So Junior.
Where? Wellpint, Indian Reservation and Reardan, predominantly white posh place.
What? A story of growing up, finding your place in a world that doesn’t always want you to feel welcome, having courage to stand up for what you believe in and, above all, friendship.
Initial Page Thoughts.
So sweet and a perfect ending, not only for this book, but for Junior.
To quote one of my best friends- “Learning is fun!” and it really is, especially in this book. I have to admit, I knew practically nothing about Native Americans so this book was really interesting because I love learning about different cultures and it was refreshing for a non-Caucasian narrator to tell us their story. And what a story! And what a narrator (more on that later)! Illustrations. I love love love books that have illustrations and the ones in this book are particularly gorgeous and really compliment the story and Junior’s personality. They also reminded me of my Jacqueline Wilson books that I used to love when I was younger, and that is never a bad thing. Not afraid to tell it how it is without trying too hard to be controversial (On my cover Neil Gaiman predicts that this book will end up being banned… I can’t help but agree). A great supporting cast. Carries a really important message, without being too preachy or whacking you over the head with it constantly. This book had a great subtlety about it, especially the last chapter.
It’s so short! And I would like to have seen more scenes with Junior and Rowdy, because their friendship is such an important aspect of the book and it would have been great to see it a bit more. Same with Junior’s family, especially his grandma who is nothing short of awesome.
Everything that could go wrong for Junior pretty much does go wrong with him. From the get go, life is hard for him and it seems to keep getting harder for him as the book progresses, but Junior has such a refreshing and humorous outlook on life that you, as the reader, never feel too overwhelmed. Alexie is a masterful writer when it comes to the emotions and troubles that Junior has to face because one minute you are feeling so sorry for him and then the next, with a witty and perfectly timed comment, you are laughing out loud and choking on your panad.
Junior loves his family and his friends and wants to do better by himself and pushes himself (no matter how bad the situation is) so he can achieve what his parents couldn’t because of their circumstances.
Junior is such a refreshing character because even though he is flawed and has to deal with so many bad things at such a young age, he is never selfish or cruel or angsty. He has such a warm heart and a pure innocennce and it was so satisfying to see him succeed.
Also… he has the best sense of humour ever and comes out with so many one liners that I had to write down in my little quote book… “That’s right, I’m a book kisser.”
So am I, Junior, so am I.
Rowdy, his friend from the reservation. Rowdy is a troubled kid and, like most of the children that grew up on Junior’s reservation, he has had to deal with alcoholic parents, violent parents, racism and poor education. I really liked the character of Rowdy, even though he was often mean, because he is just a victim of circumstance and even though he seems a bit cruel and aggressive sometimes, his heart is true and you can tell him and Junior have a real connection. They both know what it’s like growing up in a world that doesn’t want them and their tempestuous friendship is such an important part of not only the story, but also the development of Junior as a person.
There was one bit, near the end, that really made my heart ache. But I won’t tell you what it is because I want you to feel the unexpected pain in your heart, because I’m mean like that. Also… the final chapter was so so perfect and it made me feel all fuzzy inside.
Also… I have to give kudos to Gordy, Junior’s friend from school. The conversations between these two… oh my gosh… it had me in stitches. “Metaphorical boner”.
Need I say more?
Actually…. I probably do need to explain that one a bit more… but I won’t, so read the book, yes?
Alexie creates such a colourful cast of people that surround Junior and help him in various ways. My favourites have to be Mr P, Eugene and his grandma…. Who is awesome and has ‘mad skills’. YES.
Junior’s favourite band are The White Stripes and I felt I should respect his awesome taste in music and choose one of my favourite songs by them, which coincidentally, is very relevant to the story. HURRAH.
7/10. This scale would be a lot higher (at least a 15) if I disregarded Junior’s narration. This book is heart breaking. So much happens to Junior in these pages (and it’s a short book!!) and it seems that after he has overcome one problem and million more come along. But Junior, who is so determined to succeed, wades through all the crap he has to deal with and comes out so much stronger. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. He never complains or whinges about the cards he is dealt and this is why I have lowered the angst scale.
Also…. Alexie is brilliant at writing dark comedy. There were so many times (I actually lost count) that I burst out laughing at some of the things Junior said and then I felt guilty and worried that I probably shouldn’t have laughed at something like that.
But it really appeals to my sense of humour (I like to make jokes in awkward situations and laugh nervously all the time) and although it might not appeal to everyone, I think a lot of people will appreciate the release these comedic moments give them.Such a lovely book though.
People who have always believed there is something more out there. People who love amazing illustrations that are perfect for stories like this. People who always felt a bit… different in their own skin. People who aren’t afraid of a bit of close-to-the-bone language. People who like Diversity…. Wait, no, not them… t’other kind of diversity. People who like to learn about different cultures. People who like their narrators warts ‘n’ all. People who stick by their friends no matter what and climb trees with them even after everything in the world has happened. People who would totally read a book named ‘Savage Summer’ or ‘Apache Heat’ or ‘Yakama Yearning’ or ‘Lummi Lust’. People who love inspirational teachers/coaches/grandmothers and who can’t get enough of their infinite wisdom. People who want to find out what I meant by metaphorical boners.