A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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