Flight: a novel

“Call me Zits.” That’s how Sherman Alexie’s novel Flight begins. Zits is a half-breed Indian 15-year-old who has been through twenty foster families after his mother died of breast cancer when he was six. He struggles with anger, loss, betrayal and violence on his path to survival and young adulthood.

When my book group discussed this slim (181 pages) novel last week, this deceptively simple book brought up so many points of discussion and areas to explore the hour flew by with our finding ourselves rishing to cover the last few chapters in the remaining five minutes. It was an exhilarating and illuminating discussion, that only gave me more respect for Alexie’s power as a writer.

My group really took to Zits, the alienated teen who narrates Flight. For one, they liked that he embodied a teenage boy and voice so well–the vulnerability and the defensiveness. Zits lands in jail and meets an enigmatic boy, Justice, whose words fuel Zits’ own violent act. But was Justice real, or a figment of Zits’ psyche? There is a lot more, but I don’t want to give this book away to anyone who has not read it. One reader in my group lamented that she read the inside flap ahead of time. This is a good book to go in blind–to read and experience without reviews or guides the first time.

Not only is Flight a coming-of-age novel, it is a novel about violence and war and the justifications made for warfare and revenge. Alexie also muddies the waters, providing examples of Indians betraying one another and commiting atrocities, and white settlers and individuals doing the same. What justifies violence? Is there ever justification for revenge? No one is guilt-free in Alexie’s historical purview, and the unsettling complexities that Alexie manages to portray in his visceral, straight-forward prose had us all talking until the last minutes of the hour.

Grove Press’s Questions for Discussion for Flight are quite good, despite the fact that when I first saw that there were 44 questions for a 181 page book I laughed. Now, after discussing the book, I know why.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

1 Comment on "Flight: a novel"

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  1. kaylea38@gmail.com' Kristina says:

    So, I am reading it to high schoolers, kids who are also trying to find themselves. The administration has an issue with it.
    what should I do?

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