Here is a book that shakes you up and makes you think. A growing up tale about Arnold aka Junior from the Indian reservation, who decides to move to an all white non reservation school. He is viewed a traitor among his native group for stepping out and is an outsider to the whites in his new school. It only adds to the pathos that he was born with hydrocephalus and is small for his age with a big head & feet, suffers from poor vision and stutters, making him a bullies' delight.
As if this was not enough, there is the death of loved ones, alcoholic and impoverished parents, the loss of a dear and possibly only friendship, attraction, finding new friends, validating one's choice, chasing dreams. Junior the budding cartoonist laughs at himself, cries too but takes on what life throws at him, making the reader empathize with him, rooting for him to win.
The story and the writing are raw and powerful. Being the diary of a cartoonist, there are Junior's drawings ( superbly rendered by Ellen Forney) which offer comic relief without always being funny, but they consistently help the plot, giving us insights into Junior's thoughts.
There are a lot of uncomfortable issues- masturbation, poverty, alcoholism, abuse, discrimination- with use of discomfiting language. So schools and parents need to self assess the book before encouraging their younger teens to read this. As a parent, I have book marked it for my children to certainly read once they turn 14.