Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: Flight

Flight:  A Novel
I really enjoyed Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and so I was really excited to pick up another book by him, FlightFlight is also geared towards the young adult audience.  It's a quick, engaging read about identity, non-violence and walking a mile in someone else's shoes.

I am a total Alexie fan girl.  While I didn't love Flight as much as I did Part-Time Indian, I think that is only because it was the second book I've read by him.  The first flush of my crush has faded and now I'm just comfortably in a relationship with his writing ;-)

Flight is about a teenager who calls himself Zits.  Zits' father left his mother soon after he was born.  And a few years later, his mother passed away.  Since then, Zits has been in and out of foster homes.  He has no family, no friends, and no hopes for his future.  What he does have is a police record- he's been arrested several times.  One of his jailmates persuades him to commit an act of violence, and as Zits walks into the bank holding a gun, he is zoomed back in time to inhabit the body of someone else about to do a very similar thing.

This was one of those books that I didn't really "feel" at the start.  I am not sure why, as Zits is one of those narrators who draws you in immediately.  He drops you right into his life, shares his past with you and then makes you party to all his thoughts and emotions from that point onwards.  At the start, I just didn't think Zits was all that great a person.  He was a juvenile delinquent and too cynical for a guy in his early teens.  But then he leaves his own body to enter that of someone who lived a couple of generations before him, and has to commit an act of violence with which he disagrees.  And suddenly, he starts thinking about how his acts affect others.  How people choose their paths.  How one act can lead to another that can lead to another, and you no longer feel in control of what you're doing.  How, as Atticus Finch says, you can never really understand another person until you walk a mile in his shoes.  Zits walks a mile in many people's shoes and ultimately comes to realize that his current life is not a life he would choose for himself.

In some ways, the stories are repetitive- Zits gets dropped into someone else's life at a critical moment, scrambles to understand the situation around him, comes to an epiphany, and then is dumped into someone else's life to start the cycle over.  I think for some people this could get tiring, but it never did so for me because Zits is such a fantastic narrator.  As the story continues, you can see why he is so cynical.  And he becomes much more vulnerable.  I know it's a bit of a cliche to say that kids go bad because they don't have good role models and they just want some attention- but in this book, I really believed it.  I didn't want to give up on Zits.

The only part of this story that I didn't quite love was the ending.  It wrapped things up very cleanly, in a manner I didn't find particularly realistic.  But hey... it's a happy ending.  There aren't enough of those in the real world, so I am happy to take one in a story that confronts so many issues about youth in America.  This book is much more about kids that slip through the cracks than about Native American issues.  Zits is Native American, yes- but he's a lonely kid first.

I really enjoyed this book.  Sherman Alexie is 2/2 for me!  I look forward to reading more by him and if you haven't tried him yet- I highly recommend it!

21 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear the ending was a little too neat, but it does sound great regardless. Note to self: READ Sherman Alexie kthxbai :P

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  2. Sounds like I should keep an eye out for these books :)
    And I can take a happy happy ending lol

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  3. I might have to try this author some day soon. I'm not a huge fan of super clean endings, and this doesn't sound as interesting as Diary, so I might start with it. Sounds interesting though.

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  4. Great review! I've been wanting to read Diary, so I'll have to give that one a try.

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  5. I have a strong feeling that this is the Alexie that I want to start with. Your synopsis and review really caught my attention and made me really curious about this book. Also, the fact that Zits is such an incredible narrator also draws me in. Great review, Aarti! I am so reading this book!

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  6. I really need to read something else by Alexie because I was kind of lukewarm on Part-Time Indian. It's hard to know if you like an author or not that way.

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  7. I started this, but put it down because it seemed too depressing. So I'm glad to hear it has a happy ending! Maybe I can pick it up again!

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  8. Ana- Yes, read him. I think he confronts a lot of issues that you'd like to tackle.

    Blodeuedd- Haha, yes, sometimes they are very easy to come to terms with :-)

    amckiereads- I LOVED Diary. Not that that means you will love it, too, but... it is great.

    Swapna- Yes, I think you should, to celebrate the end of school :-)

    Zibilee- Yes, he is an awesome narrator, though the narrator in Diary is pretty amazing, too.

    Amanda- Hmm, I don't know what to say in that situation, really, as I was not in the least lukewarm about Diary and I know we have very different reading tastes. I also have Tonto & Lone Ranger Fist Fight in Heaven, which is more short stories, I think. But I don't think you like short stories?

    rhapsody- It definitely was depressing at the start, but it does get more positive.

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  9. I came across your blog from Book Snob's Blog Roll! Great site! This sounds like an interesting read - but was it tough to get used to the character name? I've always been a bit particular about characters' names (Crazy for Books just did a recent post on it), so this was great to read and ask!

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  10. Sherman Alexie is definitely an author I need to read.

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  11. LOL! I love the relationship metaphor. I did a post on my relationship with Paul Auster once.

    Sadly, I haven't read ANY of Alexie's stuff, and I really need to remedy that. Several of my teaching buddies teach The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in their children's lit classes (for education majors), and I suspect I'd want to do the same if I'd JUST READ IT!

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  12. As another Alexie fan girl, we'll just have to sit together. I've read Indian Killer, Flight, and Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fistfight in Heaven. I also have The Absolutely True... sitting on my TBR shelves. I love Alexie!

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  13. Adding Alexie to the to-read list.... Okay, I'm back. I love the idea of a "fantastic narrator"; I've actually fixated on that phrase and now have to peruse my shelves for others. It's not often I think a narrator is fantastic. :)

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  14. Love how you describe your relationship with Alexie--crush and now relationship. :) I have Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fist Fight in Heaven on my shelf but haven't gotten to it yet. Now I'm wondering why!

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  15. Always good to hear that there are more Alexie-fans out there!! My favorites are "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and "Reservation Blues" - I have "Part-Time Indian" on the TBR-pile and hope to get to it soon!!

    If you like poetry, you should definitely check out Alexie's poetry! As a samling, here's one of my personal favorites:

    http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/how-to-write-the-great-american-indian-novel/

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  16. Coffee & a Book Chick- Thank you :-) I actually didn't find it too hard to get used to the character name because the story was told in first person, so we don't hear it that often. Also, he spends much of the time in other people's bodies, so we don't hear his name when other people talk to him, either. I never thought of that affecting my reading, but I bet it would!

    Vivienne- YES. Do it.

    Andi- I often feel weirdly connected to authors in that way! It must be weird to be a celebrity as it's obviously not mutual ;-)

    Cathy- I have Tonto, but don't yet have Indian Killer. I want it, though! And everything else he's written.

    Trisha- You're right. Sometimes a narrator's voice can fall very flat. But for me, this one didn't. I bet it would for others, though. I feel like it's one way or the other.

    Trish- Yes, Sherman and I have decided to go steady, reading-relationship-wise! I am sure you'll read Alexie when the time is right.

    Eva- I don't do poetry much at all, so I have veered away from Alexie's, too, but I suppose I should give him a chance to wow me in that format as well.

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  17. I should have said that I'm not a poetry-reader either, but some of Alexies poems are so "prosy" that even I like them! :)

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  18. I read an Alexie book years ago, but I have no idea which one it was...I remember not really caring for it. I think it was short stories, and it's possible I didn't finish it. But I loved Part-time Indian. So I'm 1 for 2. :-)

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  19. Well happy endings are better left to Bollywood movies :) Nice review

    BookRack Reviews

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  20. You've convinced me that Sherman Alexie is an author that I need to read.

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  21. I haven't heard of this book, but I like plots where people get to step into someone else's shoes, so I think I'd like this. I've also been meaning to read some of his books for a while now, so I just need to find some time.

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