Saturday, October 3, 2009

'Flight' Through a Young Man's Bizarre, Transformative Journey

Review: FLIGHT (Black Cat 2007)
Author: Sherman Alexie

Zits may not be the angriest protagonist in literary history, but he surely must come close. In FLIGHT, author Sherman Alexie introduces the reader to Zits (not his real name, but as he puts it his "real name isn't important") on his first day in a new foster home. The nickname derives, of course, from the overabundance of acne he's afflicted with.

Zits is 15 years old, with all the emotional baggage one carries at that age and much more. His Irish mother died when he was six and his Native American father abandoned them, by his account, "two minutes after I was born" and, ever since, Zits has been kicked around from foster home to foster home – twenty, in all. The first chapter, in which Zits meets yet another blithely dysfunctional foster family, perfectly captures his witty, if world-weary, teenaged view of the mess that is his life, as well as his complete disdain for all adult authority.

After getting off to a less-than-ideal start with the folks, Zits reacts in the way he knows best – he runs – but the cops catch up to him. He's taken into custody and befriended, to an extent, by a well-intended cop. In fact, Officer Dave tries to mentor the boy, regarding him as more than just the pimply loser Zits perceives himself to be. However, Zits isn't ready to hear what Officer Dave has to say. Instead, he falls in with a charismatic, slightly older teen he meets in detention. The older boy lures Zits into committing an act of extreme, random violence, by virtually brainwashing him into believing he will benefit from it.

Zits goes along with the program and commits the horrible act – a mass shooting at a bank, during which he gets shot in the head. However, he doesn't die. Instead, he's launched through a series of time traveling, out-of-body experiences, or to be more accurate, experiences in other people's bodies.

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