This novel is about the freshman year in high school of a fourteen-year-old Spokane Indian named Arnold Spirit, Junior. He's lived on the Spokane Indian Reservation his whole life, but, after discovering that his freshman geometry book was used by his mother thirty years previously, he has a bit of an awakening. With the encouragement of a teacher, he decides to transfer schools from the reservation school to the white school in a nearby town.
He's seen as an alien by his new classmates and as a traitor by his old ones. Eventually, though, he begins to create a new life for himself, playing basketball and making friends.
One of the blurbs on the book jacket said that it's a rare book that can make you laugh out loud while you're weeping on the inside, but this one does. I'd have to agree and say that this book is hilarious because it's so typically high school. But it's also heart-breaking as Arnold watches his friends and family fall apart from alcohol abuse and poverty.
I really enjoyed this book, and I'll definitely read some of Alexie's other work. Oddly, the only exposure I've had to Alexie has been through his films: he wrote and directed The Business of Fancy Dancing (2002) and wrote the story on which the film Smoke Signals was based (1998). He's a great and fascinating writer, though, so I'll be exploring his work more.