Flight is one of Sherman Alexie’s excellent young adult novels. The primary character, Zits is a young Native American teen who has been shuttled between foster homes for most of his life. Having fallen through the cracks, Zits finds himself a victim of the system.
Much of the first part of the story centers around his friendship with a young white male, who he meets in jail. Justice introduces Zits to the idea of action through violence, and as they become close friends, they begin to “practice” killing famous people (i.e. George W. Bush, Michael Jackson, etc.) with an empty pistol. Eventually Justice convinces Zits to “start a fire” with his newfound power, and Zits finds himself in a crowded bank where he can let his rage loose. This is the defining moment in Zits life that could set him on the path to further negativity and violence or toward redemption.
Flight is the third Sherman Alexie novel that I have read, and it is by far my least favorite. This is not to say that it was not excellent, however. The story is somewhat fantastical because Zits finds himself sent back into time and into the body of five men. His transformations include leading the life of an FBI agent during the civil rights movement to leading the life of his father. The moments in time that Zits inhabits these bodies center primarily around acts of violence or anticipated acts of violence. The decisions that these men make ultimately help Zits to realize that violence has long lasting effects on the people upon which those acts are perpetrated.
There is definitely a dearth of popular young adult literature featuring Native American protagonists. Sherman Alexie’s young adult novels fill that gap nicely. Rich with interesting and lively characters, Flight offers the opportunity for readers to “get inside the head” of a young Native man who is able to experience the lives of these very diverse, and unusual group of characters. Since it is written in the first person, the reader is able to obtain a level of intimacy with the characters which otherwise might have been missed.
As well, Alexie attempts to tackle themes that are common in young adult literature, but in a much more honest and upfront manner. Violence takes center stage in this novel not because it is a by-product of Zit’s life, but because it is his life. The brutal acts that he sees/commits during his “flights” are disturbing to him because he begins to realize the impact that they have on the people around him.
Some of the characters are not as fully developed as others, which may be what attracted me less to this story than some of his other. That is to say, their storylines were well developed, but I was not able to fully engage and sympathize with the men that Zits “inhabited.” This may well have been Alexie’s intention, but at times, some of the men’s lack of moral code and integrity felt somewhat out of place. Maybe my expectations of the novel were not fully met with this novel. Of course, I wanted Zits to engage with upstanding, just men who made the right decisions all of the time, and these men were not that. Perhaps, though, this was more my own failing than the authors.
If you are interested in reading raw, emotional young adult literature, Sherman Alexie definitely hit the mark with Flight. It's incredibly interesting, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of his work.
What did you think of this review?