Sunil's Reviews > Flight

Flight by Sherman Alexie
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's review
Jan 07, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009
Read in April, 2009

Flight is neither semi-autobiographical nor young adult—technically, although the teenage protagonist and voice make it seem enough like YA. It's about Zits, a "time-traveling mass murderer." Wait, I'm getting there. Zits is a half-Indian teenager who's been bumped from foster home to foster home when he meets this guy in jail who decides to teach him to shoot random people.

And so he does...and then he starts Quantum Leaping into various people's bodies throughout time (and before you go there, Alexie is way ahead of you: the epigraph is from Slaughterhouse-Five). He gets a first-person historical perspective on Indian-white relations: sometimes he's a white guy and sometimes he's an Indian, but whenever or wherever he is, people are getting killed.

Sherman Alexie works well in a teenage voice; it allows him to question really complex ideas with very simple verbiage. Zits is not as likable as Junior, but he's still relatable because the questions he asks are ones we're always struggling to answer. What's the difference between good and evil? Why do people kill? Is it ever right to kill? Zits's timejumps form a hypnotically violent tapestry of America that makes you wonder whether the cycle of violence can ever really be broken.

The book is very short, clocking in at under 200 pages, and there's even less of an overall narrative drive; it's clear Alexie is a short story writer first and foremost. I don't think the book is really supposed to be about Zits, honestly; I think he's just the vehicle. We're supposed to follow him on his journey and learn along with him. There are thirteen pages of discussion questions at the end, I'm not even kidding.

I really liked the book, and it's a quick read. I certainly have a new perspective on Indians now.

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