Release Date: 01/29/13
Get hooked on a girl named Fred...
HE said: Fred Oday is a girl? Why is a girl taking my best friends spot on the boy's varsity golf team?
SHE said: Can I seriously do this? Can I join the boys' team? Everyone will hate me - especially Ryan Berenger.
HE said: Coach expects me to partner with Fred on the green? That is crazy bad. Fred's got to go - especially now that I can't get her out of my head. So not happening.
SHE said: Ryan can be nice, when he's not being a jerk. Like the time he carried my golf bag. But the girl from the rez and the spoiled rich boy from the suburbs? So not happening.
But there's no denying that things are happening as the girl with the killer swing takes on the boy with the killer smile...
My thoughts on the book:
Hooked is an interesting take on the typical contemporary YA love story. Fred was a likable character, and I enjoyed reading from her POV. Ryan was a bit weak for a love interest, but he grew on me as well. The characters developed throughout the novel, and the details of the plot were unique. Also, Fichera did an excellent job of showing some of the problems facing Indian Country today. However, she also exacerbated some colonial ideas. I do not think this was on purpose, but it still needs to be mentioned. Overall, I'd recommend this story to people who like cute YA romances that address social issues such as poverty, child abuse, and racism.
Fred was a strong character, and she was easy to like, but she didn't grow much throughout the novel. While Ryan evolved into a new person, Fred was fairly static. This could imply that Native peoples are static (if I was reading from a strictly decolonizing lens), which would be problematic. It also could simply be that Fred was already evolved. Either way, she needed to grow more, in my opinion, to remain interesting. Ryan, on the other hand, grew a lot, but I didn't like him much at first. His friend Seth really pissed me off, too. He was a racist piece of crap, and I still have no idea the real reasons behind his actions. I simply know excuses given for him throughout the novel. Some real explanation and condemnation would have been nice.
The polyvocality worked to some extent, but sometimes the voices sounded similar. Also, I felt that Fichera used too many colloquial words. A few years down the road, this is going to read like a book from the 1950s because slang changes quickly. Also, for people who aren't familiar with adolescent slang, some of the sentences didn't make sense. It's always best to avoid slang when possible.
My main issue with this novel was the fact that Fichera attempted to dispel stereotypes, but at the same time she reinforced them. I was never certain what nation Fred was from. Furthermore, Fichera perpetuated the idea that elders still run around acting like they live in the 1800s. As someone who has worked in Indian Country, I can tell you that the things that went on in this book are not normal practice. Furthermore, she used Cherokee blessings, Navajo words, and Pueblo blessings. This took away tribes' individualized national identities and made them seem homogeneous, when in fact, the 565 federally recognized tribes are extremely different. I felt that this was harmful to the message she was trying to convey. I know that she wanted to address racism and she at least painted most of the Indians in a contemporary context, but she did so in a harmful manner. Furthermore, if they were a casino tribe in Phoenix, AZ, then they should have made decent money from the casino. That would mean that the citizens of the nation would have their college paid for, etc. It wouldn't have been as impoverished as she made it seem. It's like she took everything she'd ever heard about contemporary indigenous peoples and shoved it all together for one tribe. The alcoholism (which is a problem, but not all Indian families have drunks in them), the poverty, and casinos. The tribal elder's "blessings" were the most problematic for me, though. I think they shouldn't even be placed in the book. It simply exoticizes Indians and makes them seem like an ethnic group instead of members of distinct polities.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to people who like a good love story. However, I caution you not to take anything in this book about Native people seriously. It's problematic and exacerbates settler colonial ideals, which harm ALL indigenous nations. Since it's clear that Fichera had good intentions and at least addressed some stereotypes and dispelled them correctly, I am giving this book the benefit of a doubt. Not all indigenous peoples lived in teepees and none do now. They drive cars and they have dreams and goals, just like the rest of us. They are people and should be treated as such. She did an excellent job with those points. However, the aforementioned issues still remain. If you want a book to reflect what life is really like for contemporary indigenous peoples, might I recommend Thomas King, Sherman Alexie, and Eric Gansworth. For a non-Native perspective that serves as a decolonizing discourse through the illustration of contemporary Navajos, check out Shifted by Bethany Wiggins.
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