Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic). 356 pp. (Includes “Playlist & Discography”.)
It is 1975, and Lewis desperately wants to fit in with his 7th grade classmates. Tracked into the smart classes of his junior high, he is separated from his reservation friends and shunned by his white classmates because he’s Aboriginal. He is hopeful a new student will arrive who will be his friend, and is rewarded when George, a military kid from the nearby Air Force base, shows up in class. Despite being warned that befriending Lewis would be a social disaster, the two become close friends sharing a love for The Beatles and Wings.
As the years pass, despite their closeness Lewis is not ready to share the poverty of his home with George, constantly making up excuses for why George can’t come visit. As Lewis spends more time with George and his parents in their home, he begins to question his own home life and poverty. His Uncle Albert warned him that once he tasted the white man’s way of life he’d now see his own in a different light. Lewis scoffed, but soon began feeling a mixture of pride for his status as a Tuscarora Indian and guilt for wanting that life to be better.
As he struggles to find his place in between the white man’s world and reservation life, Lewis’ days are filled with bullying, as he is tested in ways he’d never thought possible.
“If I ever get out of here” is a wonderful coming-of-age story, with incredible insight into reservation life and the race relations between Natives and whites. It should have a place in every middle and high school library.
Recommended for ages 12-15.