Another week, more books have been read. Lets get to it shall we. There will be no long winded introduction today, as i talk about my week, or ramble on about something that is of no relevance to the post. Then i tell you ‘enough of that, lets move on to the reviews’….oh wait…damn it
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” Was the first book i read this week. I actually read it in just over an hour- a combination of it being a short book and me sitting in my room for that entire hour reading it until it was finished. This book really touched my heart as i related so much to the main character Arnold, or Junior as he was known by his tribe. He was born with hydrocephaly, excess fluid on the brain (i actually knew what this was when i read it, pathology ftw), and he was always made fun of and bullied by his peers. Hell he was even bullied by 30 year old men- and he was 14. He lives on an Indian Reservation, and after an incident with a teacher he decided that he wanted to make something of his life, to change something. To have hope. So he moved from the local reservation school to a rich-country-white school 23 miles away. He was immediately outcast by his friends and the rest of his tribe, and at his new school he was racially taunted and ignored initially.
The story touched me so much as it made me so sad that a child had such a hard life- with so much death both in his family and outside of his family ; with alcoholism and drugs a major part of the society (and contributed to the majority of the death); to be bullied and be faced with no future because he is Native American. That his father is an alcoholic and spends the christmas money on alcohol- but still attends all of his Basketball Games. That his best friend (who wasn’t his best friend for a while due to Arnold leaving the rez and going to a white school so he could even attempt to get into college) is beaten by his father. That alcoholism and poverty is so big in his community many are resigned to the fact that they will live and die within the rez. This makes me so sad. And it makes me even sadder to think that this happens in society today. That the indigenous people in Australia face this future- the destruction of their culture, the fact that they are so entrenched in the poverty and the situation they are today (because what was done by the white Australians years ago compounded with society now) that it is so hard for them to get out of the vicious circle. Arnold said in the book said (i am paraphrasing a bit)
‘They were poor because they were indian, and because they were indian they were destined to be poor.’
And its true- and sad. And this book touches on this issue in a simple and amazing way- through the writings and accompanying drawings the main character- a 14 year old kid. Sherman Alexie, Ellen Forney
I love the writing- the language. And ‘Arnold’s’ cartoons that accompany the text just add a little bit of humour and lightens the quite heavy tone of the book.
Not only does the book touch on the societal issues at play in many marginalised communities in the world, but it also hints at more personal and emotional issues. I could write for pages and pages about Arnold, but i won’t. The one thing i will write about is how important Hope is.
After he threw a book at the teacher Mr. P, Mr.P came and visited Arnold. And apologised for white people. Apologised for trying to ‘kill the indian within them’, for trying to kill the culture and the spirit. And this perfectly sums up what i discussed earlier. But he didn’t just say that, he urged Arnold to have hope and to escape from the rez. To not give up and resign himself that he is destined to live on the rez, but to have hope and go out there do something. And Arnold does- he moves schools. And he makes friends, he gives himself a chance to get an education, get into college. And he gets hope.
One of the most powerful lines in the book is when his basketball coach tells him he can beat his ex-bestfriend in the game, defend him and guard him. He told him-
You can do it.
And that was one of the most amazing things an adult had ever said to him- You can do it.
And that just hit hard- that it meant so much to him to have someone believe in him. That he could be so much more, and he is good at something. That so many people don’t have this in their lives, are depressed or lonely or hopeless because of this. How important this is, the support and love.
Seriously read this book. It is a young adult book, and meant for a younger audience as reflected in the style of writing, but i loved it so much and it really makes you think about not only your life (everyone can relate to Arnold) but really what we are as a society.
Just, Ugh. So good.
The second book i read is completely different- another YA dystopian book with a hint of romance. This was on a buzzfeed YA recommendation list and the description looked really interesting.
The Darkest Minds is set in a world where children 10 years or older were infected by a disease-that was often fatal. If the children survive then end up having special powers. The rest of society, in this case it is set in the U.S, were threatened by these abilities and send them to pretty merciless camps to be ‘rehabilitated’ (as you can guess, the rehabilitation does not happen). There are two conflicting governments, one west coast and one east coast due to party splits and dissatisfaction. This is not a primary plot point in this first book but i am sure it will become of importance in the future books.
The main character Ruby was sent to a camp by her parents, after she accidentally wiped her mothers memories of her. Each of the affected children are grouped dependent on their powers. They are either blue, green, yellow, red and orange. Ruby is an orange, a group that has the ability to control a persons minds and look into their thoughts. Of course this is a pretty powerful power, and many of the children who possess this ability are killed or taken by organisations for their own use. Ruby escapes these fates for the 6 years she is in Thurmond camp by pretending she is a green. The first 100 pages are what determines whether i enjoy a book or not- and this first section of the book really set the mood, setting and revealed enough about the characters and the plot to get me hooked. Thurmond is a merciless place, and the first person nature of the text really allows us to see into Ruby’s psyche and see her fear and her experiences in this camp.
She ends up escaping (obviously) but after this the pace of the book slows done. The prospect of a good life after her escape is short lived, and after the truth is revealed about her rescuers she joins a gang of other escaped psi kids in search for East River- a mysterious camp that is a safe haven for escaped psi kids and protected by the Slip Kid. The road trip they go on is very slow. They drive around and nearly get captured by some bounty hunters and the PSF (the main disciplinary force to control the psi kids). While the road trip was important for character development, as we learn more about Ruby and the other psi kids she has become friends with- Liam, Chubs and Zu- without the addition of the action scenes and car chases it would have been a drag to read. And even so it could have been shortened a tad to speed up the plot.
There is the inevitable romance between Liam (attractive, caring, the leader of the group) and Ruby. I don’t understand how it exactly happened but their interactions were enjoyable to read and is par for the course for this genre of books. I won’t comment too much on this as it wasn’t one of the things i paid close attention to throughout the book as i felt the setting and world Bracken created was really interesting and something i had not read before.
After the slow pace of the road trip things really pick up when they get to East River. They meet some new people and the identity of the Slip Kid is revealed. And just when we think things are looking up- there is a major plot twist that mixed everything up. This really bought me back to enjoying the book as much as i did. The end was pretty predictable, and while it is a cliff hanger it follows the plot of many other YA books (i will not spoil, but it probably is what you are thinking it is)
I have heard there are many mixed reviews about this book- but on the whole i have enjoyed it. It was a very easy read. I actually stayed up until 3am reading the book as i lost track of time. It is the typical YA dystopian novel with a hint of romance, but overall the world Bracken created with the plague, the children with powers and the different factions fighting for power (we don’t really know who to support) made the book really interesting and is what kept me going through the slow middle section and to an extent i could forgive the romance.
Check it out if you will, and let me know what you think and whether i should make an effort to read the next book in the series in the coming weeks!