Author: Sherman Alexie
A couple weeks ago the National Book Award finalists were announced - and sadly, I had read none of the books on the list. Since The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was the only book selected that I had actually heard of, I decided that would be a good place to start.
The story itself uses a basic theme that is quite common in YA lit today...the average teen chronicling life in a simple diary format. While this format is generally more popular in books with a female point-of-view, Alexie is by no means alone in having a male protagonist...an equally good example would be Exploits of a Reluctant (but Extremely Goodlooking) Hero. Although The Absolutely True Diary isn't exactly original in format, it is fairly unique in the fact that it's main character in an American Indian.
The novel chronicles a year in the life of Arnold Spirit, a young Indian who has decided to leave the poor Reservation school in favor of the wealthier "white" high school. Harassed by both the Indians he left and his new classmates, Arnold suffers a difficult year. Although he is eventually accepted for his decision, his journey is by no means easy; over the course of the year he must deal with poverty and alcoholism among his tribe, as well as the death of multiple family members (most of them directly linked to alcohol). Yet surprisingly, Alexie has somehow managed to give all of this a humorous twist. The Absolutely True Diary truly presents a story that is both humorous and heart-breaking.