The book will be cherished by everyone who reads it and can be appreciated by teens and adults equally. This is the story of Junior, or as he is called by his given name, Arnold Spirit. Being born on a Spokane Indian Reservation guarantees that your life will be hard, but Junior is dealt a double blow. He is also born with fluid on his brain that leaves him with ongoing disabilities. His disabilities make him different and being different on the reservation makes him a target. His world is also one of extreme poverty, hunger and hopelessness. Everyone living on the reservation will suffer the same fate. There is no work, no opportunity and no chance for change. However, Junior has a secret weapon that can save him from a life of poverty and bullying, if he is brave enough to take the chance and build a new life outside of the reservation! Can he leave his people behind to better his own life but still find a home in the only place he has ever known? Find out how a young boy can find the courage to fulfill his dreams and retain the love of his best friend and the tribe who will forever define him.
Alexie tells the story loosely based on his own life experiences. I think because of that, he writes with such reality and soul that you "get" the humor thrown in with the heartbreak that the Spokanes must deal with as their way of life. Of course the story is also one of a teenage boy who must deal with the rest of the stuff life throws at him. Imagine taking on your entire tribe and having to deal with girls, competition in sports, fitting in, defying bullies and growing up all in one shot!
The story is not only a joy to read on its own, but is interlaced with cartoons that explain Junior's take on the events unfolding around him. These add humor to the story even during episodes of great sadness and that's what makes the book so easy to adore, especially for teens. Interspersed throughout the book are themes of poverty, bullying, family struggles and coming of age. There is something in the pages that should speak to people at any age.
Recommended by Donna Nichols