bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #66: If I Ever Get out of Here by Eric Gansworth

I enjoy a well-written YA novel. So I take recommendations from friends, students, professors, you name it. My mentor G had posted this book on her Facebook page, and I was immediately intrigued.

Lewis Blake is a member of the Tuscarora tribe in upstate New York in 1976. He lives with his mom and uncle in a ramshackle home on tribal property and so inhabits a strange space that juxtaposes US law with territorial law. It only gets more confusing at school, as he is mainstreamed with white kids, most of him will not look at him or talk to him by virtue of his being a Native American. Lewis is also a huge fan of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, and Queen. He doesn’t wonder whether he’ll get out–he knows he will stay on, just like his family and friends from his land. And yet, when white kid George Haddonfield makes his acquaintance, Lewis enters a new world of possibility…one that also highlights the dangers of being an “Othered” individual in a seemingly post-racial America.

I like that this novel highlights racial tensions beyond black-white. It’s a new take on acceptance and the crimes committed in the name of freedom, though it can be difficult to read about a kid who is called names, insulted, and bullied, simply because he is not white. I did also very much like that friendship formed the heart of the novel. A lot of YA novels with male characters don’t always do a great job of depicting friendships, but this one felt genuine and organically drawn.

I think my biggest complaint is tied in to the uniqueness of the novel, actually. While I liked the setting and the many mentions of music to place the novel within a period of American history, I don’t know that young adults (except for music aficionados) in 2013 are going to know enough about The Beatles or Wings to get the many clever references or asides that relate to the music. In this sense, the book honestly felt like a young adult novel written for adults. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se…

I do think that it portrays an honest and raw look at bullying, which is one reason I *would* recommend it to a young adult. I’m glad I read it. It was entertaining, sad, enlightening, and hopeful all at once.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

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