It’s “Absolutely True” that this audiobook needs the print companion.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Recorded Books Productions, LLC, New York, 2008; Narrated by the author, Sherman Alexie; Unabridged, 5 hours.

Arnold “Junior” Spirit has a lot of strikes against him: weird looks (thanks to hydrocephalus and its complications), poverty, and life on the Spokane Indian Reservation.  He uses his knack for cartooning to escape the alcoholism and rules for fighting on “the rez.”  In a twist of fate, his high school math teacher encourages him to expand his education beyond the boundaries of the reservation by attending Reardon High, a white school more than 20 miles away.  Aside from the school’s mascot, Junior is the only Indian at Reardon High School.  His status as “part-time Indian” is complicated—he is not accepted on the rez anymore (they call him an “apple,” red on the outside, white on the inside) and he doesn’t seem to fit in at the white school either.  Through perseverance, a sense of humor, and a little luck, Junior finds himself making friends with all kinds of kids at Reardon—jocks and geeks, in particular.  The love and support of his family is also an integral part of the story.  Making the varsity basketball team during his freshman year also allows Junior to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rowdy, who had vowed never to speak to the “traitor” again.  It is with a sense of humor that this story overcomes what could be overwhelming sadness and pity.  Teens with shortcomings of all types will cheer for Junior as he overcomes obstacles of all shapes and sizes.

I was put off by the narration.  The author’s reading style is sing-songy and the inflection in the dialogue portions is not emotive.  It seems that it was vanity on the author’s part to narrate the story and that is no reason for creating an audiobook!  I think that teens may be too put off by the style to listen to the whole story.  In addition, a vital piece of the print book is the comics that are “taped” into the diary because Junior uses his cartoons as his flotation device to give him hope in a world that might just drown him.  Those images are obviously missing from the audio version. 

If I were to recommend this audiobook to teens, I would insist that they check out the print book and read along so that the images could enhance the story for them.  For this reason, I marked down the scores for popularity and quality for the audiobook version; however, the print book is a fun coming of age story that will appeal to teen boys in particular.  When the print and audio books are combined, this is a story of hope, perseverance and success over enormous obstacles, with a little crude humor thrown in to increase the teen appeal.

Audiobook: 2P     3Q     Grades 8-11    

Print Book: 4P     4Q     Grades 8-11

Part-Time Indian Audio Book RecordingCover Art:  The use of a toy Indian on a vivid orange background is unusual and sparse enough to create curious interest in the cover. Among the audiobooks on the shelf, the color of this case made the book stand out and the white type on the orange background stood out even more.  I don’t think it will appeal to teens, other than the fact that orange is a “hot” color right now.

From Reading List: YALSA Amazing Audio Books for Young Adults


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