Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Lewis Blake is bright and scrawny and the only kid from the Tuscarora Reservation tracked with the brainiacs at their county junior high in upstate New York. For the duration of sixth grade, he was invisible, but when burly, polite George Haddonfield arrives on the Air Force base and shows up in their seventh-grade class, Lewis might have found a friend. The boys bond over girls and music (the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings, and Queen—it is the 1970s, after all), slowly letting their guards down, but when a vicious, well-connected bully sets his sights on Lewis, their friendship is sorely tested. Gansworth, himself an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, explores the boys' organic relationship with generosity and tenderness and unflinching clarity, sidestepping stereotypes to offer two genuine characters navigating the unlikely intersection of two fully realized worlds. All of the supporting characters, especially the adults—from Lewis' beleaguered mother and iconoclastic uncle to George's upright father and delicate German mother, and a host of teachers and administrators who look right past the daily violence perpetrated on Lewis—are carefully, beautifully drawn. And although Gansworth manages the weighty themes of racism and poverty with nuance and finesse, at its heart, this is a rare and freehearted portrait of true friendship. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

Lewis Blake, from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in 1970s upstate New York, is beginning seventh grade at a mostly white junior high, and he's tired of not fitting in. A friendship with newcomer George helps Lewis cope with loneliness and bullying. But does it constitute a betrayal of his world? An engaging, authentic story with depth and heart.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Lewis Blake is a brainiac kid from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in 1970s upstate New York. Beginning his second year (seventh grade) in a mostly white county junior high school, he's tired of not fitting in. He cuts off his braid, tries to hide the fact that he's in the free-lunch program, and even fantasizes about getting plastic surgery. But he also worries that fitting in would mean "stripping my Indian life away completely first." The arrival of newcomer "air force kid" George Haddonfield allows Lewis to make a friend and helps him cope with the extreme bullying he experiences at school. But does his friendship with George constitute a betrayal of his own world? Beatles music provides common ground for the two boys, and titles for the novel's three sections (and the author's original paintings) are riffs on Beatles songs, while chapter titles alternate between Beatles and Paul McCartney post-Beatles tunes. In the chapter "Venus and Mars," Lewis's uncle Albert explains, "The red planet is like the rez here. That other planet, Venus, I guess, that's the other planet your buddy comes from. . .And we ain't got no rez rocket that's ever gonna get you to that other one." Gansworth's YA debut is a fine story with depth and heart; like Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian (rev. 9/07), it is engaging and authentic. Readers will welcome the inclusion of a playlist and discography. dean schneider Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

It's 1975. Lewis lives in abject poverty on the reservation. His favorite band, the Beatles, has broken up. He's the only Indian in the class for smart kids. And he's in middle school. Times are tough. When George, a military kid, arrives, the two bond over their mutual appreciation of music. Lewis shares select pieces of his life with George. However, he struggles to avoid revealing the true nature of his life on the rez. Things deteriorate for Lewis when he catches the attention of a school bully who makes his life miserable. Forces of nature eventually compel Lewis to face everything: the bully, what he is hiding and his own shame. Lewis' desire to move between cultures, and his difficulty doing so, will resonate with readers of many backgrounds. The action in this book builds slowly, providing readers with the context to understand the distrust that makes Lewis reluctant to fully commit to a friendship with George. Some readers may not be enthralled by the extensive exposition and sometimes-stilted dialogue, but those who stay with the story to the end will find their hearts touched by Lewis, George and their families. Gansworth's debut for young people is a worthy exploration of identity and friendship between middle school boys who live in different worlds. (discography) (Historical fiction. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection

Gansworth's first book for young readers captures the angst and promise of cross-cultural understanding in the 1970s. Seventh grader Lewis' budding acquaintance with George Haddonfield navigates bullies, girls, and the often painful task of being a best friend. Lewis debates whether to have his braid cut off; for an Indian kid growing up on the Tuscarora Reservation, this is not an easy decision. The cutting also comes to symbolize the struggle between white expectations and Rez reality. George lives on a nearby Air Force base. Family members, especially Lewis' mother and George's father, are afforded great depth. Gansworth explores shame and empowerment with a satisfying, but not sappy ending. Friendship ends up as a brief interlude enriching both the main characters and the reader. It is an engaging read for junior high age boys in particular. Jenny Gapp, School Librarian, Peninsula K8, Portland (Oregon) Public Schools [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Set in the mid-1970s, adult author Gansworth's first novel for teens introduces Lewis Blake, a seventh-grader who lives on the same impoverished Tuscarora reservation in New York State where the author himself grew up. Ever since Lewis's alcoholic father took off, the boy has been raised by his overworked mother and Vietnam vet uncle. A couple of years earlier, Lewis's smarts landed him in the local junior high, off the reservation, but fitting in has never been an option. He lucks out, however, when Air Force brat George Haddonfield arrives in town and picks Lewis as his new best friend. Although their backgrounds couldn't be more different—George has lived in Germany and Guam, while Lewis sees the rez as his past, present, and future—they bond over a shared love of the Beatles and Wings, as well as making music. Although the plot takes time to get going, as a bully stirs up trouble for Lewis, readers will appreciate the teenager's sharp insights into being an outsider and Gansworth's intimate knowledge of the prejudices and injustices inherent to Lewis's life. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 6–9—In 1970s upstate New York, Lewis Blake inhabits two separate universes: the reservation where he lives in poverty with his mother and uncle, and school, where the fact that he is American Indian (and his sardonic sense of humor) has made him an outcast and a victim of bullying. The seventh grader has begun to accept his status until a new kid shows up in his class. George Haddonfield grew up on air force bases around the world and doesn't seem to know or care about the divisions between the reservation kids and everyone else. Although Lewis and George bond over their shared love of the Beatles, George's friendly overtures to visit are constantly rebuffed by Lewis, who isn't sure if their tentative friendship will be able to withstand the jarring differences between George's home and his own. Can a love of rock and roll overcome all? Lewis's relationships with his mother, his uncle, and even his peers ring true and draw readers deep into his world. Life on the reservation is so vividly depicted that scenes set elsewhere, such as the air force base where George lives, feel a little flatly drawn in comparison. Nonetheless, the overall tenor and wry humor of this novel more than make up for its weaknesses.—Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

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