Flight: A Novelby Sherman Alexie, Black Cat, 2007, 208 pages, ISBN: 0802170373
Flight, the second Sherman Alexie novel my son and I read this past summer, is my favorite Alexie novel. While not classified as a young adult book and certainly much darker than The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,mature middle school readers will enjoy Flight for its fast pace, humorous central character, and its hope-filled ending. My son certainly did.
Zits, half-Indian and half-Irish, is a lonely, unwanted fifteen-year-old boy. His alcoholic Indian father left him when he was born; his mother died when he was six; and his aunt deserted him when he was ten. He's lived in 20 foster homes and attended 22 schools. Everything he owns fits into one small backpack. His face full of zits fills him with shame, and he is desperately lonely and disconnected. He doesn't know to what tribe his father belonged, and the only Indians he knows are the homeless in downtown Seattle, with whom he likes to get drunk and hang out. He runs away from his current foster home and gets picked up by Dave, a policeman and probably the only guy who cares about Zits.
While in jail, Zits meets Justice, a white kid Zits thinks can save him from loneliness. Justice teaches Zits to shoot a gun, and Zits takes the gun into a bank full of people. Zits opens fire; a bank guard shoots him in the back of the head. His death catapults him on a journey through time into the bodies of sundry other people. His stops include an FBI agent on an Indian reservation in the 70s, a mute Indian boy at Custer's Last Stand, an old Indian tracker, a broken pilot, and a homeless alcoholic Indian.
Throughout Flight, Zits feels shame, loneliness, anger, revenge, and betrayal, but he maintains his humor and his strong sense of self, and through his cathartic travels he gains humanity, compassion, empathy, wisdom, and hope.