My copy of the book comes with a glowing quote from Neil Gaiman that declares “I have no doubt that in a year or so it’ll be winning awards and being banned.” Now that Banned Book Week is upon us and the brain melting mess that was “Speak-Gate” has highlighted just how big a problem book banning is, I thought there was no better time to review this book than now, especially since this book was also recently removed from a school library not too far from the district where rape apparently equals soft core pornography.Junior, a.k.a. Arnold Spirit, is in many ways a typical teenage boy. He’s often foul mouthed, thinks about masturbation quite a lot, often bottles up his feelings and has a wicked yet frequently bleakly dark sense of humour that reflects his situation. Regularly mocked and bullied by the rest of the ‘rez’ because of his disabilities (he was born with water on the brain, much like Alexie himself – the book is evidently semi-autobiographical), Junior’s struggle for identity and independence is something I think is universally relatable. His witty and relatable narration tackles some pretty hard hitting topics, like alcoholism, poverty, racism, bullying and the struggles still faced by the Native American community to this day. I give major credit to Alexie for his skill in describing the heart breaking conditions and circumstances that surround Junior in his everyday life and not once making the story feel over wrought or full of drama for the sake of drama. It’s genuinely heart wrenching stuff to read the scenes where Junior talks about being poor. The equally witty and hilarious illustrations, provided by Ellen Forney, work hand in hand with the rest of the novel to show Junior’s thoughts and feelings in ways he has difficulty expressing aloud. The book is often challenged for its strong language and sexual imagery but it feels natural to the voice of a frustrated teenage boy. It’s a very personal book that doesn’t shy away from Junior’s difficulties as he tries to balance being the outcast in the reservation, who sees him as a traitor for wanting to leave, with being the outcast in his new all white school. While it’s a deeply personal story, the supporting cast is full of interesting characters, such as Junior’s first new friend at high school Gordy, possibly the biggest geek ever created. While the book is a quick read at 230 pages and some of the storylines just seem to fade away into the distance as the book ends, that’s just a small fault and in no way spoils the book. I can understand why cowardly censor loving book banners would want to remove this book from libraries – it’s a powerful book that has more guts than half the stuff currently on the shelves. It’s an unforgettable book that tackles subjects a lot of people would rather forget about and it’s a perfect example of why I love YA.