The first comparison that has to be made is to [b:House on Mango Street|139253|The House on Mango Street|Sandra Cisneros|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348245688s/139253.jpg|2000351]. They are both coming of age novels written in a vignette style. Personally, I think The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (TATDOAPTI) eclipses House. It's funny. It's deep. It's relevant. It's endearing. House on Mango Street is obviously those things as well, but sometimes Cisneros' writing is caught up in symbolism whereas Alexie's episodes are direct, understandable, and poignant. TATDOAPTI's Arthur deals with growing pains of any teen, and like Esperanza, his are compounded by being an outsider, by being a minority, by being seen as an "other." Change, puberty, poverty, high school, girls, fighting, drinking, death, friendship are all issues that Arthur addresses head-on with honesty and humor.
Yes, there is dialogue of metaphorical and real boners. The language is sure to grab a younger audience (same as Shakespeare's lines about long swords and country matters). I would tell any parent/teacher concerned that this is not a sexually charged book by any means. Alexie just lays it out like it is for teens. Derogatory words (not just slurs against Indians/First Nations) are also sprinkled throughout. Again, very true-to-life dialogue that teens use these days. It allows for a discussion about appropriate language and why we may use name-calling and labels for our friends.
This book is such a beautiful piece. When you can encapsulate so much anger and depression and still offer laughter, you've created a beautiful book. I keep using the word beautiful. In an odd way the book reminds me of the movie American Beauty. Thankfully the stakes aren't quite so high in TATDOAPTI. The book takes itself far less seriously and I always got the impression that Arthur believed in himself-- even in the darkest times I never felt he was desperate or alone or utterly miserable. He needed to make a list of reminders for why his life wasn't shit, but I didn't need them.
This book invigorated me, made me proud of the next generation coming up, made me so happy to have the life I have and the friends I have. All of that is too cheesy to write in a book review though. The book didn't change my life, just made me happy that books like this exist in my life.