In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 14-year-old Arnold (Junior) Spirit fights racism and his tribe’s anger as he tries to escape the alcoholism, depression, and death of life as a reservation Native American. I can see why this book received so much attention. The story is compelling, the situation fascinating. I both love and don't love it. The LOVE is obvious, but some thoughts on the not-love:
The first-person voice uses hyperbole primarily to mask suffering with humor. Often the humor is self-deprecating in the extreme (and redundant), is blunt, and lays out themes directly. No guessing about the problems that will be explored (or rather, hammered).
One small factual issue: the kid wears eyeglasses thick as the bottoms of soda bottles. So why is he getting punched in the face so much? And how did he get a black eye without getting glass in it? And wouldn’t his glasses fly off on the court? Hmmm.
There were occasional soap boxes and side trips that I felt detracted, and the “lightness” was almost too much. I felt it was akin to some of the photographs in What Have You Lost. Disrespectful of pain, glib, even mocking. The humor dampens what little sense is present of Arnold truly caring for his people/identifying with them. I read it as: Arnold is a nomad, shaking his head in disgust, knocking the dirt off his sandals as he hikes out of town, which to me, while perhaps realistic, is disrespectful of his culture in the extreme. He should read Birchbark House to rediscover some of his people’s beauty and nobility, I think.
What Jamie Saw is the story of a boy and his mother fleeing an abuser. The first chapter is heartbreaking and poignant. Coman chooses a close 3rd person but incorporates a distinct narrator voice—mature, respectful (similar to the Ramona books but less optimistic). So the voice...
Looking for Alaska is easily one of my favorites from the MFAC booklist. Even though I’ve grown a little tired of the forced-funny, self-deprecating voice so ubiquitous in contemporary ya, and tired of a protagonist who stands there going “um hum” while everyone else gets the great one-liners. But here...
S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Amazing. Hard to believe this novel was written by a teen. What trumps all here is a sympathetic protagonist and a strong storyline. Hinton can get away with...
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 14-year-old Arnold (Junior) Spirit fights racism and his tribe’s anger as he tries to escape the alcoholism, depression, and death of life as a reservation Native American. I can see why this book received so much attention.
Forged by Fire is gripping! And excruciatingly painful to read. A few thoughts: I’m not sure if I bought...
Seriously, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 was entirely fascinating. Like brain porn or something. I love medical weirdness and plagues and boils and gross stuff. So this book had me from the title.
Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood crafted a moving introduction. The importance of keeping a family story alive. I wonder, though, if this story would have more power in a different format?
In We Are the Ship Nelson combines fabulous paintings with rich text full of voice for a truly interesting look at the Negro League of baseball. The paintings are gentle, respectful, full of love with absolutely amazing use of light.
Tuck Everlasting. I first read this in upper elementary when I was in a special "advanced" reading class where I got to spend the English hour on the beanbags in the corner and read my way through Newbery classics.
True Believer is a novel in verse, or is it? I would say funky line breaks and jaggy right margins do not verse make (how’s that for some ferociously f*rked syntax?).