I was looking through available eBooks in our library catalog, and decided it was finally time to read this book. I recommend it a lot to teens because the format, cartooning, and writing style has made it beloved by many young readers.
I have to admit I was very impressed that Alexie could make such serious content humorous. Arnold/Junior does not have an easy life, yet he approaches each new situation with courage, wit, and resilience. There were times when I was both cringing and laughing simultaneously - an odd feeling indeed.
Arnold/Junior makes a very difficult decision to leave the "rez" to attend a "white" school in a neighboring town. At first he is shunned by both the Indians he left behind, and the kids at his new school who view him as an outsider, but gradually he starts to gain acceptance from his new peers. In a lot of ways this book was very illuminating regarding life on a "rez," and reveals some of the challenges that many Native American tribes face today. Arnold/Junior is very realistic about his situation, discussing in particular the difficulties of poverty and alcoholism in his family, but I never once got the impression that he felt unloved or unsupported by his family members (which is rare in a book that features alcoholic parents). Arnold/Junior knew he wanted a different situation for himself, thus branching outside the rez, but he never forgot where he came from and he still held out hope until the very end for reconciliation with his tribe. I would imagine this book has been very inspiring for people in similar situations - those who are afraid to break the mold and step into the unknown. Arnold/Junior shows that it's not easy, but it is possible, and sometimes the results can be positive in ways you do not expect.