Author: Eric Gansworth
Publisher & Release Date: Arthur A. Levine, June 2013
The Hook: Beatles references combined with a historical story (at least to people my age and younger: the 70s!), with a teen Tuscarora Indian as the main character, which I haven’t read before. I was happy to see that it was also just named the AIYLA Honor Book.
The Lowdown (from Amazon): “Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?”
Overall Impressions: This book has pretty broad appeal, and I would also happily push this onto fellow fans of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” though there are some significant differences. Sherman Alexie is irreverent, foul-mouthed, and hilarious, which is the essential voice in “Part-Time Indian.” Gansworth takes a more serious tone with many of the same issues – poverty, bullying, the meaning of friendship and family relationships, and navigating between the very different worlds of the reservation, high school, and military families. However, similarities included: a strong-willed and lovably awkward hero; a infuriating system that you want the hero to take down; showing the significance of little things; making me cry.
The Highs: I love it when characters connect with a friend over music, and Gansworth deftly brought in many satellite issues, like girlfriends, parents, bullies, and lies, while still holding on to that central theme. Lewis, George, their families and friends were all great characters, each with their own quirks that led to moments that rang very true. I loved Lewis himself, his persistence and pride, even his fish-out-of-water awkwardness – I think most teens will be able to empathize with that feeling. The ending made total sense to me, even though it was bittersweet.
Buzzkills: This is more of a lack of amazingness than an actual buzzkill: I really wanted there to be a playlist of samples that I could download to my phone. A lot of the music references will probably sail over the heads of most teens, unless they have a rare penchant for classic rock, and it would be so cool to get teens get hooked on the music that Lewis fell in love with.
The Source: Netgalley.com
Disclaimer: Neither chocolate or any Queen LPs were provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.