Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Flight by Sherman Alexie

Flight: A Novel

Flight is a book by Native American author Sherman Alexie, whose writing I was introduced to through the Native American Literature class I took about two years ago at Buffalo State College.  I decided to read Flight for my Native American Literature Challenge, which I created to introduce myself to more works by Native American authors.  It is the story of Zits, a loner teenage boy.  His mom died when he was young, and his dad hasn't been around since Zits was born.  Zits hates being in foster care and constantly runs away or does things to get away from his foster families.  One day, Zits takes things too far and suddenly finds himself traveling through the past, seeing the history of his family and his people.

I bought Flight about a year ago and I cannot believe I waited so long to pick it up.  I connected with Zits and the story immediately and read the book in one sitting.  It's the sort of book I could reread over and over and never get sick of.  The writing is excellent.  It is narrated by Zits, and you'd think that a teenage boy really wrote it.  Even so, the writing is deep in its simplicity.  A lot of what Zits has to say he says in a very harsh, simple, and mocking way, but underneath is a boy who feels lost and is angry and the world because of what it has dealt him.

Flight seems like your average novel about a teenager trying to find his way, but it really covers so much more than that.  A key issue in this novel is one present in a lot of Native American Literature, like in N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn, which I reviewed last year (click title for review).  Zits knows he is different from other teens because of his Native American background, yet he also feels far away from his family's roots.  He doesn't feel like he belongs anywhere.  Another issue that was tackled in this novel is revenge.  Is revenge really worth it?  When Zits goes back in time, he witnesses many heartless acts that make him want to quickly exact revenge, yet he also sees beautiful acts of kindness for the human race, no matter what the ethnicity.  The problems that Zits faces throughout Flight are not uncommon, and I feel that this book could be a favorite among younger readers (and older readers too!).  Other kids going through similar situations can read it and think about how Zits handles himself in different situations, whether or not he does the right thing. 

I absolutely adored the time travel aspect.  It doesn't seem out of place at all in the story, especially because of Zits' reaction to what is happening.  He seems just as bewildered as the reader.  Zits learns so much about himself, about other people, and about revenge and its effects through the time traveling, and his adventures in the past were my favorite part of the story.  I also have a soft spot in my heart for the police officer who tries throughout the book to connect with Zits and get him to realize that he's actually on his side.  Zits just sees him as a bad guy, when in reality he feels bad for the kid.

This is a beautiful story and I highly recommend it.  So many people can relate to Zits, whether they are Native American or not.  Alexie has earned an honored place on my bookshelf because he is able to write a story that tackles tough issues yet is filled with a ton of humor that will leave your stomach sore from laughing.  I can't wait to read more from him.

Now for some of my favorite passages:
Page 22: This guy probably thinks I'm just another stupid street kid.  A dyslexic drone in the social welfare system.  But I'm smart.  Really smart.  Well, okay, maybe not that smart.  I am currently sitting in a jail cell.

People go to jail for a reason.  Well, for a couple of reasons.  They're in jail because they're stupid enough to commit crimes.  And because they're stupid enough to get caught.  And so, yeah, maybe I'm smart but I'm also double-stuff dumb.  Adults are always telling me I don't live up to my potential.

Page 88: -This is what revenge can do to you.
-I lead those one hundred soldiers down the hill toward the Indian camp.
-We are killers.
-As we ride to the bottom of the hill and race the short distance across the flats toward camp, I can feel Gus's rage and grief leaving my body with each hoof-beat, I lose pieces of my rage, until I am left with only my fear.
-I had wanted to kill, but now I just want to stop.
-I throw away my rifle.  I don't want to use it.  But I keep riding.  I am unarmed.  I think I want to die.  I think I want Gus to die.
-I think I want to lose this fight.

Title: Flight
Author: Sherman Alexie
Date of Publication: 2007
Number of Pages: 181
Genre: Fiction
Source: Personal Copy

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