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Synopsis: Junior, desperate to break his family’s cycle of poverty, alcoholism, and hopelessness, transfers to Reardan High, where the only other Native American is the mascot. Branded as a traitor on the reservation and treated as a pariah at his new school, Junior copes by drawing comics and fantasizing about a brighter future. As he struggles to find his niche both on the rez and in Reardan his family is nearly crushed by tragedy. Still, Junior refuses to give up, and as he perseveres through every trauma he finds that there may be more to the world than the divide he’s always known.
Is this a “must-read”?: This was my fifth time reading it and I still say YES.
Why?: True Diary is definitely one of those books that can be called a work of art, and not just because of the cartoons. As stated, this is about the fifth time I’ve read it and it still made me grin like a Cheshire cat as I repressed hysterical laughter. But it’s not all fun and fart jokes; Junior has some serious problems and Alexie doesn’t sugarcoat. And yes, a lot of the conflict is related to Junior’s status as the lone Indian who left the reservation, but I think everyone can relate to feeling out of place. And any eighth grader who’s ever gone to a different high school than all her middle school friends knows what it’s like to feel like a traitor.
Alexie handles the racial tension aspect without overdoing it (unlike 90% of all novels with minority protagonists), and the other characters are all multi-layered and awesome. Integrating comics as a way to help tell the story lightens up somber moments without trivializing their seriousness and adds a surprising layer of depth. Junior’s voice is wonderfully devoid of whiny teen angst even when describing how frequently he gets beat up, and he comes across as the kind of kid you would gladly hang out with in real life. Unlike Tiger’s Curse, which sounds like it was written by a 14-year-old because of a lack of research and/or talent, True Diary sounds like it was written by a 14-year-old because the narrator is actually 14 years old. More than anything, the message of True Diary makes it a must-read for anyone, not just teenagers: by the end Junior learns (mild spoiler) that no matter how far you are from home, you can always find someplace where you belong.
Next time: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
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Have you read this book? Are you SO excited for dac to read Ender's Game?