The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.
Carolrhoda Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Middle grade sports fiction, 127 pages.
Lexile: 810L .
AR Level: 5.5 (worth 3.0 points) .
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing this on Fiction Friday, it is a work of fiction.
Jake’s mother has finally decided they need to spend more time together. He whole-heartedly agrees, but doesn’t like that this means moving off the reservation, being the only Native in a fancy school, and giving up lacrosse. Is there any way to make his new classmates understand the true spirit of the game?
Well, it had to happen eventually that I would read a book I didn’t love! So far all the books I’ve reviewed for my #100indigenousbooks project have been great, I must really have been picking them!
To be fair, this is a sports novel, and I dislike most sporting fiction. I felt about the same as I would about a Matt Christopher sport novel, which is pretty similar to this book.
The opening was pretty strong, with Jake playing an honorable game of lacrosse on the reservation, centered in his family, community, and team. I could even buy in to his transition to the new home and school.
I didn’t like Jake’s mom much. Even though as an adult I could understand some of her rationale, her need to prove herself, the drive to work longer and better than anyone else – it just didn’t make sense from a kid’s standpoint. Granted, Jake was not communicating well with her, but she also was paying very little attention to him and his needs or desires. I was able to read between the lines and guess at the author’s intentions, but doubt that most children would be able to. This issue was also not really resolved (there was a semi-resolution, but it should have been developed more).
The ending felt a lot like a deus ex machina. IF that event hadn’t happened, what would have developed with Jake and his friends? I also was a little surprised at the violence and the sudden shift in the tone of the novel. The ending was good, but I wanted a little more, perhaps a cycle back to some connection with the reservation because it felt like hitting the climax with a sudden end and no resolution.
I’m torn about the inclusion of roommates Kofi (West African) and Muhammed (Muslim). On the one hand, it was nice to see some diversity. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if it was too forced. I’d love to see some #ownvoice reviewers weigh in on these characters. The moment where the boys reflect on their various religious traditions was pretty sweet and unexpected for a sports novel.
There were also some weird formatting issues (one page had this big blank spot that left me wondering if a paragraph was missing), and if you look at the cover in person and up close, you can see that the image wasn’t converted in the best way – it’s sort of pixelated and weird (although I do like the painting). Basically, it looks like a very nice self-published book, and the low cost reflects that.
The best part of this was the Iroquois culture and the character of Jake (and to a lesser degree his uncle). It showed how Native communities support each other and portrayed a modern professional Iroquois woman (albeit not a super likable one). I also liked that Jake’s father was deceased from a work accident rather than absent or alcoholic, which seems to be a running trend in the #100indigenousbooks project books I’ve read so far.
The constant marginalization of his culture of origins and the missteps taken by his history teacher and the microaggressions he experiences or witnesses in his conform-at-any-price school culture are powerful reading for any child, but I expect they will especially affect marginalized children.
Whether they’re obsessed with lacrosse or you’re hoping to interest them in learning about Iroquois culture, a young child who adores sports will probably enjoy this. While this wasn’t my cup of tea, there was nothing overtly wrong with it or preventing the more sporty people out there from picking it up. I already own one of his other books and definitely plan to try some of his more-highly-recommended books.