If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric L Gansworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is definitely the for readers who love Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, particularly those who aren't quite ready for that one. The author grew up on the Tuscarora reservation in western New York and know whereof he speaks; like Alexie he's not afraid to talk about the stereotypes and myths.
Lewis is supposedly very smart, so he's tested into the school's gifted program. In seventh grade he had no friends and expects nothing different in eighth, except this year George has moved to the local army base and doesn't seem to understand that Lewis is persona non grata in the class. Over the course of the year they bond over music, but there's a huge gap between them: Lewis feels uncomfortable going into George's house, and he knows that George can never come inside Lewis'. Despite this, they really do develop a sincere friendship - one that most boys wish for. Their road isn't smooth, but their relationship is very real.
I liked meeting Lewis, but why was this set in the 1970s? He's about a year younger than I am, so all the stuff he experienced musically I was experiencing at virtually the same age (and since I was living about 2 hours east of the rez, I knew people who were going to Toronto for the Wings tour and remember the blizzard). But that's me, and there really doesn't seem to be any reason for the time setting except perhaps the author writing what he knows? It's not far enough away to be historical fiction, but not close enough for middle grade readers to really care. It also rang false that the adults really did adhere to stereotypes, with little nuance in them.
If readers can get over the time in which it's set, they'll really like this book. And lucky for them, Wings Over America has been released on CD!
ARC provided by publisher.