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If I Ever Get Out of Here

If I Ever Get Out of Here

4.5 2
by Eric Gansworth

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Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him -- people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their


Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him -- people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family's poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan's side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis's home -- will he still be his friend?

Acclaimed adult author Eric Gansworth makes his YA debut with this wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock 'n' roll.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the mid-1970s, adult author Gansworth’s first novel for teens introduces Lewis Blake, a seventh-grader who lives on the same impoverished Tuscarora reservation in New York State where the author himself grew up. Ever since Lewis’s alcoholic father took off, the boy has been raised by his overworked mother and Vietnam vet uncle. A couple of years earlier, Lewis’s smarts landed him in the local junior high, off the reservation, but fitting in has never been an option. He lucks out, however, when Air Force brat George Haddonfield arrives in town and picks Lewis as his new best friend. Although their backgrounds couldn’t be more different—George has lived in Germany and Guam, while Lewis sees the rez as his past, present, and future—they bond over a shared love of the Beatles and Wings, as well as making music. Although the plot takes time to get going, as a bully stirs up trouble for Lewis, readers will appreciate the teenager’s sharp insights into being an outsider and Gansworth’s intimate knowledge of the prejudices and injustices inherent to Lewis’s life. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"[A] funny, poignant young-adult debut." -- Washington Post

"Eric Gansworth fearlessly lays down the truth about what it's like to grow up poor, and the strength it takes to hold your head high and find a way out." -- Laurie Halse Anderson, author of The Impossible Knife of Memory and Forge

* "Gansworth, himself an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, explores the boys' organic relationship with generosity and tenderness and unflinching clarity, sidestepping stereotypes to offer two genuine characters navigating the unlikely intersection of two fully realized worlds.... And although Gansworth manages the weighty themes of racism and poverty with nuance and finesse, at its heart, this is a rare and freehearted portrait of true friendship." -- Booklist, starred review

"If I Ever Get Out of Here rings true with a sophisticated look at what it's like to be an outsider and what it takes to be a true friend…. More than just engaging, [it] is the sort of book that can spark all kinds of meaningful conversation." -- Los Angeles Times

"Readers will appreciate the teenager's sharp insights into being an outsider and Gansworth's intimate knowledge of the prejudices and injustices inherent to Lewis's life." -- Publishers Weekly

"A heart-healing, mocs-on-the-ground story of music, family and friendship." -- Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize and Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Lewis Blake lives on the Tuscarora Native American Reservation in upstate New York with his mom and Uncle Albert, a disabled veteran who shares Lewis's bedroom and his love of the Beatles' music. The house is literally falling apart around them, with the kitchen roof collapsing and holes in the floors and walls. There's no running water, no automobile, and his mom barely make ends meet by picking up cleaning jobs when she can. Lewis knows they are among the poorest families on the reservation, but their situation seems even more painfully confining when he has to leave the reservation school to attend the junior high school in town. It's the mid-70's and relations between those on the Res and the Whites in town are bad at best. Although Lewis is really bright, he is the only Native American in all of his classes and the other students actively shun him. But then, a new boy, George, arrives from the local Air Force base and can't seem to be bothered with the local kids' advice to stay away from "the wild Indians." George and Lewis become friends, but their friendship is limited by Lewis's inability to trust George and his inability to reciprocate the kinds of behaviors that actually build friendship, like having someone over to your house to just hang out and listen to records. When a girlfriend enters the picture, the friendship is tested even more. After Lewis becomes the victim of physical bullying that the teachers choose to ignore, however, George takes matters into his own hands. Gansworth employs an authentic voice to illuminate the challenges faced by Native Americans in dealing with the dominant, and often inhospitable, White culture. Still, there is a note of hope that people can reach across boundaries if they try. If readers liked Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, this text will appeal. Lots of discussion possibilities for issues such as stereotyping, friendship, multiculturalism, and bullying. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Vikki Terrile
It is 1975, and Lewis Blake is trying to fit in as the only American Indian in his junior high school "brainiac" class. When George, a military kid, joins the class, Lewis finally finds a friend, begins to question his relationship with his closest friend on the reservation, and inadvertently draws the ire of a bully no one—including school officials—will do anything to stop. Gansworth's first book for teens does not quite read like a book for teens. There is a strong sense of nostalgia in the slow pace and references to 1970s rock music (particularly Paul McCartney's Wings) that modern teens may have difficulty wading through. Lewis is a likeable character, struggling to find his place between the two worlds of his home life and his school life, with little hope that he will ever break away from the reservation and lead the kind of life he witnesses firsthand when he meets George. Lewis's experiences with Evan—a bully whose family's financial support of the school has given him total impunity—will strike a chord, and readers will likely be as outraged as Lewis is when he is blamed by many (teachers included) for Evan finally being removed from the school. Comparisons to Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007/Voya August 2007) seem inevitable, if not unfair, both because of the plot and the format (Gansworth's paintings feature prominently throughout the book). This is a solid choice for teens looking for realistic historical fiction that is not too historical, or for rock music history fans. Reviewer: Vikki Terrile
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—In 1970s upstate New York, Lewis Blake inhabits two separate universes: the reservation where he lives in poverty with his mother and uncle, and school, where the fact that he is American Indian (and his sardonic sense of humor) has made him an outcast and a victim of bullying. The seventh grader has begun to accept his status until a new kid shows up in his class. George Haddonfield grew up on air force bases around the world and doesn't seem to know or care about the divisions between the reservation kids and everyone else. Although Lewis and George bond over their shared love of the Beatles, George's friendly overtures to visit are constantly rebuffed by Lewis, who isn't sure if their tentative friendship will be able to withstand the jarring differences between George's home and his own. Can a love of rock and roll overcome all? Lewis's relationships with his mother, his uncle, and even his peers ring true and draw readers deep into his world. Life on the reservation is so vividly depicted that scenes set elsewhere, such as the air force base where George lives, feel a little flatly drawn in comparison. Nonetheless, the overall tenor and wry humor of this novel more than make up for its weaknesses.—Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
It's 1975. Lewis lives in abject poverty on the reservation. His favorite band, the Beatles, has broken up. He's the only Indian in the class for smart kids. And he's in middle school. Times are tough. When George, a military kid, arrives, the two bond over their mutual appreciation of music. Lewis shares select pieces of his life with George. However, he struggles to avoid revealing the true nature of his life on the rez. Things deteriorate for Lewis when he catches the attention of a school bully who makes his life miserable. Forces of nature eventually compel Lewis to face everything: the bully, what he is hiding and his own shame. Lewis' desire to move between cultures, and his difficulty doing so, will resonate with readers of many backgrounds. The action in this book builds slowly, providing readers with the context to understand the distrust that makes Lewis reluctant to fully commit to a friendship with George. Some readers may not be enthralled by the extensive exposition and sometimes-stilted dialogue, but those who stay with the story to the end will find their hearts touched by Lewis, George and their families. Gansworth's debut for young people is a worthy exploration of identity and friendship between middle school boys who live in different worlds. (discography) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Eric Gansworth enjoys music ranging from the Beatles to the Decemberists, Pink Floyd to Green Day. He has published nine highly praised books of fiction and poetry for adults, and his artwork has been shown in multiple exhibitions. An enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, Eric grew up on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in upstate New York. Currently, he is a professor of English and the Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.

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If I Ever Get Out of Here 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved every second pf this book. It kept the pages flipping.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars. There was so much to take out of this book and I think the most powerful statement I walked away with, was to be proud of who you are, stand tall because no matter how miserable or shameful you think your life is, there is some good in it. Lewis is a smart kid who lives on an Indian reservation but he goes to a white school so he can take advance classes. Lewis is not well-accepted at the school and it isn’t until later that he discovers that his classmate’s parents had threatened their own children’s behavior, “Dump them off among the wild Indians if they’re bad and they can find their own way home.” I was shocked myself at the behavior and the way Lewis was treated at the school. The brutality and the loose-lips that individuals felt they had the right to throw around and the bullying he was subjected to. How some people can have a blind eye, just so they don’t have to deal with what is right in front of them. They disliked Lewis because of where he came from not because of who he was. One person befriends Lewis at school and this friendship sealed the book for me. I couldn’t decide later if it was how Lewis became a part of George’s whole family or just the boy’s relationship that sealed the deal for me but Lewis had a purpose even though other parts of his day were gray. You could see how Lewis was changing, he was getting a glimpse of life that he had never seen and it was a two-headed sword. As they try to find meaning in song lyrics, they like so many of us are trying to put ourselves on the map where we can belong and connect to others. Their connection was tight and brotherly, what makes everyone so different really?