Alexie nimbly blends sharp wit with unapologetic emotion in his first foray into young-adult literature. Fourteen-year-old Junior is a cartoonist and bookworm with a violent but protective best friend Rowdy. Soon after they start freshman year, Junior boldly transfers from a school on the Spokane reservation to one in a tiny white town 22 miles away. Despite his parents' frequent lack of gas money (they're a "poor-ass family"), racism at school and many crushing deaths at home, he manages the year. Rowdy rejects him, feeling betrayed, and their competing basketball teams take on mammoth symbolic proportions. The reservation's poverty and desolate alcoholism offer early mortality and broken dreams, but Junior's knowledge that he must leave is rooted in love and respect for his family and the Spokane tribe. He also realizes how many other tribes he has, from "the tribe of boys who really miss . . . their best friends" to "the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers." Junior's keen cartoons sprinkle the pages as his fluid narration deftly mingles raw feeling with funny, sardonic insight. (Fiction. YA) Read full book review >
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