The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a book I hadn’t heard of until recently. (I learned about it while reviewing Time magazine’s list of the 100 best YA books of all time.) Most of the books I had at least heard of and many I had read in the past. However, this one was new to me and the title and cover were intriguing, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did!

The novel centers around a Native American teenager named Junior who lives on the Spokane reservation. He is an awkward guy who loves to draw cartoons and uses his art to express his feelings about the world around him. In fact, there are cartoon drawings sprinkled throughout the book.

Junior is often picked on, and even beat up, at his school on the reservation. When he realizes that he isn’t getting the best education there, he makes the decision to go to the white school in a nearby town. It’s a controversial decision since people in his tribe see him as a traitor and he also doesn’t readily fit in in his new school. As a result, he and his best friend Rowdy have a terrible falling out, leaving Junior even more alone.

Alexie’s book is a National Book Award winner, and with good reason. It deals with serious topics, like racism, substance abuse, and poverty. However, Alexie presents the story with humor, making it an enjoyable read. You can expect to run across some racist language, but it is used in a way that helps to tell the story, so it is necessary. In addition, there is some crude language and humor, but again, it adds to the authenticity of the novel.