Well, I’m not surprised that this YA novel got a lot of press when it came out for it’s “controversial material” (a.k.a., sex and violence). But I don’t think that should keep it out of school libraries and kids’ hands. The sex and violence does not come from a place intending to titillate — instead, Alexie uses it to tell the truth about a society that a lot of people know little to nothing about.
“Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community.”
Like the author of his story, Arnold Spirit Jr. was born with hydrocephalus — a condition that led to brain surgery as an infant, and long-lasting side effects. And like Alexie, Junior is determined not to be held back by this condition. Born on a reservation in Spokane, he surprises his community by commuting to a “white kids” school in Reardan, Washington — off the reservation.
Junior experiences discrimination from the white kids at school, and from the other kids on the reservation at home. He gets in fights, loses his best friend and watches as tragedy after tragedy hits his community. But he continues to work hard, and keeps that dark sense of humor that makes the book so enjoyable. And it is enjoyable — sad and funny and touching.