If I Ever Get Out of Here

(i)

 

Relatable story of music-loving Native American boy in '70s.

What parents need to know

Educational value

If I Ever Get Out of Here teaches readers about the lasting and ongoing repercussions of the U.S. government's attempts to assimilate Native Americans into white culture. It will also inspire readers to think about preconceptions that people may form based on race or the way people look. Readers will learn about the extreme poverty experienced by many reservation Native Americans.

Positive messages

You're stuck with your whoever your family is, but that can be a comfort -- even if some relatives are annoying. At the same time, it's OK to make new friends outside your realm of experience. Real friends are honest with each other because they can trust they won't be judged by each other.

Positive role models

Lewis hides some parts of his life from his white best friend and lies to his Native American mother about some elements of his friendship with the white boy because he fears neither will fully understand the other, but he learns it's better to be honest. Lewis tries his best to deal with a bully on his own, and when grown-ups in authority refuse to help him, he takes a stand by refusing to go back to school until someone believes him. He accepts the consequences of missing school.

Violence

Lewis is physically and mentally bullied by a white boy because he's Native American. The boy frequently beats him up, and grown-ups overlook it because the boy's from an influential family.

Sex

Lewis' uncle, with whom Lewis shares a room, hangs pictures of "totally naked" women on his wall; the uncle also has a magazine collection, which is understood to be girly magazines, though they're not specifically described. Lewis admits that he's looked through the collection, and his friend shows interest in similar magazines he finds at a house where he babysits. When the friend gets a girlfriend, Lewis understands that he can't ever be in the same boat at school because white girls are out of bounds for him and there are no Native American girls in his classes.
 

Language

Lewis calls the bully an "a--hole," and the word is repeated a few times. 
 

Consumerism

Mentions Wacky Packages (parody trading cards and stickers that were popular in the '70s) and Smurf figurines. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lewis casually mentions several adult alcoholics who live on the reservation. Lewis tries alcohol with a friend but doesn't get drunk. A character mentions that his older siblings smoke pot.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that If I Ever Get Out of Here is about a Native American boy who lives on a reservation in the '70s. Lewis is often ostracized at school -- as the story starts he's in seventh grade -- and the one white boy who befriends him is also ostracized because of their friendship. Lewis is bullied and beaten up because of his race, and adults, including teachers, ignore it, don't believe him when he reports it, and look down on him for getting a white boy in trouble. Alcoholic adults are mentioned, and some adults smoke pot. There's some experimental teen drinking and underage driving.

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What's the story?

It's 1975 and seventh grader Lewis is the only Native American reservation boy in the smart classes with the white kids. He longs to have a friend, but school relationships have nuances that are different from the teasing and joking he's grown up with. When a new boy from the military base turns out to have similar musical tastes to Lewis, the two slowly make their way to friendship, but Lewis is reluctant to share his reservation life with his new friend, because their home lives are so vastly different. When Lewis is bullied by a white boy, Lewis gets little sympathy from teachers, his mom, or his classmates, forcing both Lewis and new friend to take a stand.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Lewis' struggle to fit in with the white kids in his class while remaining loyal to his family and his Native American culture is realistic and relatable. So is the instant bond that grows between him and another boy over their shared musical tastes. However, the extensive and minute details about 1970s music culture may confuse or bore today's readers, and much of the plot and characterization is exposed through some fairly awkward dialogue, especially in the beginning.

Still, Lewis is a likable narrator who keeps trying to overcome his difficulties and learn from his mistakes. If readers can stick with the first half of IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE, they'll be rewarded in the second half, when the plot gets going and Lewis starts to resolve his problems.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about racism and prejudice against Native Americans. Do you think much has changed since the 1970s? How does Lewis' story compare with other books or movies you've seen about Native Americans?

  • How's your music listening experience different from Lewis'? Do all your friends listen to the same music on the radio, or do you find new music from other places?

  • Have you ever heard of or listened to the bands mentioned in If I Ever Get Out of Here? Are the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings, Queen, and David Bowie still relevant to teens today?

Book details

Author:Eric Gansworth
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Arthur A. Levine
Publication date:July 30, 2013
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, Kindle

This review of If I Ever Get Out of Here was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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