I usually try to read a book from the challenged books list every year in honor of Banned Books Week. I had to laugh when I went down the top 10 list for 2011 and all of them were checked out of the library or books I'd already read. Remind me if I ever get a book published to get a bunch of people to challenge it - that's one way to guarantee an increase in readership. :)
Anyway, I picked The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. So many people have blogged and raved about this book. Now I see why. It's funny, entertaining, heartfelt, and real. I could also see why it's been challenged, not that I agree with that, but it doesn't always portray Native Americans in the best light and really seems to be an inside look at a 14-year-old boy's head, which can be a bit dirty, unsurprisingly. Alexie is Native American and doesn't shy away from the negatives of life of the reservation. At the same time, he shows the good in their culture, their close-knit families.
Arnold, the main character, must balance between being Indian on the reservation and "white" at the school he transfers to, the one he wants to go to so he can someday get off the reservation and out of the cycle of poverty. His fellow Native Americans resent his choice, seeing it as a rejection of them. It beautifully captures teenage life and felt so real, I actually doublechecked that it's a novel and not a memoir, even though I knew it wasn't. Interestingly, it's story is extremely similar to Alexie's own biography, so there was a reason why it felt so real. I don't say that to take anything away from his writing, which is wonderful. He excels at telling a story, pulling you in. Despite the sometimes dark subject matter, it's also really funny. The illustrations are great and enhanced the novel. I highly recommend it and will definitely check out his adult books.