Molly Jones's Reviews > The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
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Mar 01, 08

Read in February, 2008

Although this latest Sherman Alexie book is written from the first-person perspective of a high-school-aged boy who is a misfit growing up on an Indian (Native American) reservation, I didn't realize that it's a YA novel until about 1/3 of the way through. It doesn't exactly matter that it's a YA novel, except that I think YA novels can get away with more (read: repeated language, dumbed-down ideas) than adult literature can. I found myself giving Alexie the benefit of the doubt when his young protagonist complained about/explained the depth of his poverty for the hundredth time. I also thought, well, this may be the kind of rehashing that this character would actually do. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that Alexie's repetition was a product of his writerly laziness (at least, I didn't think discussing poverty for the hundredth time was developing his character in any new way) and this conclusion was disappointing.

Some things that I enjoyed: Alexie plays with stereotypes of Native Americans (ie. the guilt some Anglo people feel about Native Americans; the hatred some Native Americans have for Anglos; the hatred some Anglos have for Native Americans; the yearning to be Anglo some Native Americans display). These perspectives/jokes were fresh and felt true to character. Even though I felt that writing this novel as a "diary" of a young boy was gimicky and served as an explanation as to whom the story of this boy was being told, I still enjoyed the format; it kept the plot episodic and fast-paced, adjectives that meld with a high-school-aged personality. I enjoyed reading an "insider's" perspective of life on a reservation: the expected poverty and sorrow as well as the unexpected humor and soul that come from that experience.

All in all, I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, entertaining novel that offers a tad more in the literary department than the typical pop fiction.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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alexana I did enjoy the book and would recommend it, but I agree with your criticism - I found that there was a lot of spoon-feeding as far as the themes were concerned. I don't know if this was intentional because the book is young adult, but there are plenty of young adult books that don't have this problem.


Kathy I read this in the space of a couple of hours. Didn't realize it was YA - just figured he was writing it like a 14-year old.


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