Alexie's book is the story of a young boy known as Junior who's growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. He's got some medical problems and he gets bullied a lot; his parents are unhappy; his older sister runs away. But he's got some things going for him, too- he's determined to get a good education and manages to get himself transferred to an all-white school off the reservation, where he excels at basketball and learns to believe in himself.
I loved this book. I loved it. I laughed and cried with his struggles, his victories and his defeats. Junior's dysfunctional family is every dysfunctional family, and his problems are the problems of every kid who ever felt like he didn't fit in or that nobody understood him (or her). He pushes his way through the pain of racism, defeatism and adolescence with a tenacity that was so affecting for being so real. Alexie tackles some tough issues- racism, poverty, addiction, discouragement and the deep pessimism that comes when you feel like the whole world is against you. Things don't always go well for Junior and he doesn't always win but he does his best and he does well.
The Absolutely True Diary is a book I wish I could give to every kid I know and everyone who ever was a kid. It's brilliant and beautiful and wonderful. I loved Alexie's writing, which, although clearly enough for a teen audience, doesn't condescend or talk down and shows craft and skill enough for any adult to appreciate. Ellen Forney's comic-like illustrations, which pepper the story, are cute and sweet and darkly funny. I burned through it in about three days over the summer when I was home sick and can't think of a better way to spend time than reading this lovely gem of a book.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.