The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 1, 2009
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“You’ve been fighting since you were born,” Mr. P said to me, even after I broke his nose. “You fought off that brain surgery, you fought off those seizures. You fought off all those drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope, Junior. And now you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope.” (p.43)

With these words, Arnold “Junior” Spirit begins his courageous journey that transcends expectations, race, and heritage, and ultimately gives hope to him and everyone else he knows.

Arnold, however, is the last person you’d expect to embark on such a journey. Born a hydrocephalic, with more physical and mental problems than he has fingers, Junior, a Spokane Indian, was born into a heritage of culture and tradition, but also of poverty and hopelessness. He’s the prime target for every bully on the reservation, so he’s learned to take refuge in the two things that have always been there for him: his angry, combative best friend, Rowdy, and his drawings.

Arnold is an amazing artist. He draws, not only for the sheer thrill of it, but also for the sense of survival it gives him. “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods,” he says, “and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.” (p.6)

Arnold starts to make his own lifeboat when his teacher, Mr. P., approaches him with an ultimatum: leave the reservation now, or watch your hope disappear forever. Mr. P. has watched too many of his students, including Arnold’s sister, Mary, gradually lose hope in their future and disappear into their shell. Empowered by Mr. P., Arnold decides to transfer from the reservation school, Wellpinit, to the rich Reardan High, where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

What follows next is the story of Arnold’s life at the rez and at Reardan, and how both change him as he grapples with new connections, new hope, and extreme loss.

Sherman Alexie has created one of the most realistic books I have ever read, intertwining his own childhood in the Wellpinit Indian Reservation in Spokane, Washington, with a spot-on depiction of the life of a modern American teen.

Alexie’s writing throbs with emotion in every word, whether it’s the strong kind of emotion we think of whenever we hear the word, or the mild teenage cynicism that, if only for this book, is a great form of emotion for viewing the world around Arnold.

Alexie’s emotion laden, cynical writing goes hand in hand with Ellen Forney’s exaggerated, deeply humorous drawings, giving life to a motley supporting cast of alcoholic fathers, all knowing grandmothers, acceptant white kids, and runaway sisters. This book will never be a classic, but it will remain one of the most bright, emotional coming-of-age stories I have read (I have read many) for a long, long time. I would recommend this comic, in-your-face book especially to any teenager 13-17, but also to anyone that loves wit, great characters, or hope in their reading.

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Mckay This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 1, 2013 at 2:34 pm
There are a myriad reasons as to why I think this review is exceptional. 1. Personally, I love this book. I remember reading it and enjoying it as much you did. 2. Your prose for this review is what prose for reviews should be. It's clear, concise, and free of typos. 3. Your opening is capturing. I've written a couple of reviews but have never started with an actual quote from the book. I'll make sure to do so sometime if I ever do writer another review. 4. You wrote this with zeal f... (more »)
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