Five Star Review, originally posted here on May 13, 2016.
This book is virtually perfect.
The main thing I love is the voice of our narrator/protagonist. At the very beginning I was a little hesitant, because the writing seemed almost too juvenile and crude. But I have gone back and read my teenaged diaries before, and they sound pretty much exactly like this. So Alexie does a perfect job capturing the voice of a precocious, goofy teenager, but where he truly shines is in seamlessly weaving truly profound, beautiful thoughts about complex, serious issues in with the teen talk. Yet somehow he also keeps us laughing through the tragedies. As someone who has been around some of these similar experiences (alcohol, death, living in a tight-knit ethnic community, etc), I could very much appreciate just how well Alexie captured what it feels like to go through these experiences while using humor as a coping mechanism. On the flip side, our protagonist is a penniless Native American boy growing up in the west on a reservation, and I grew up an upper-middleclass white girl in an affluent suburb outside D.C., yet Alexie explained his protagonist’s world so clearly that, despite coming from a polar opposite background, I still felt like this book could have been about me. That is a powerful skill. And subsequently this is a powerful book, masquerading as a lighthearted jaunt. It is basically Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but if the Wimpy Kid had real, dark shit to deal with.
Perfectly balanced, perfectly executed, perfectly real. Highly recommend (especially since it’s YA, which means you can plow through the whole thing in 2 hours).