Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1403
Discovering "The Indian" in Jón Gnarr
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
The Indian is an incredibly vivid firsthand account of the young life of Jón Gnarr, the actor, comedian, politician, and mayor of the Icelandic city of Reykjavík, and now, author. So how does someone with such a successful and unpredictable adult life come to be? $10 says you can’t guess. If this story hadn’t been written, few could guess at the incredibly difficult childhood of someone who has accomplished so much with so much success. But I’m getting ahead of myself. To be fair to the common reader, before this book, I, probably like many of you, hadn’t much considered Iceland and I certainly didn’t think there was much to relate to from a book written from the perspective of a 5-12 year old boy about his adolescent life. I mean who does? That’s a pretty specific set of relatable criteria to meet, right? Wrong. Gnarr’s story is one of struggle, misunderstanding, humor, development, and growth—all though the unique lens of a child. Gnarr doesn’t surpass the age of 12 in this book, yet his experiences speak to all our “inner child.” The book is written in a diary format as if we are reading a secret transcript or private dialogue of Gnarr’s innermost thoughts. Making this more fascinating is the stylistic choice to write, as a child would think, with direct and simplistic conclusions to complicated situations that later as adults we come to second guess, bite our tongue or over analyze. Adding to this child-like approach brings into play Gnarr’s learning difficulties. He has undiagnosed ADHD and severe dyslexia, which gives him an even more unique perspective to his thoughts.

Due to his parent’s lack of understanding (and more harmfully, their lack of compassion) as well as his teachers’ inability to teach him, Jon begins to see his differences as a negative thing. Furthermore, his confusion about the dissimilarities he sees between himself and his fellow classmates leads him to distance himself, and slowly become isolated and very self-destructive. He describes himself as evil and annoying to others. He acts out and is extremely loud and inappropriate which causes his peers to laugh and classify him as a comedic character. Gnarr learns to play along with this unintentional attention and feigns responsibility for these actions when the reality is that he truly doesn’t have control over them. As he says “It is better to be a comic than a moron.” But more than his external reactions to his life, are the internal battles he has, as he feels trapped and alone.

“Everyone gets tired of me sooner or later. I can tell by the way they look at me; I see the weariness in their eyes. Mom is tired of me, the teachers are tired of me, and my friends are sometimes tired of me, too. I’m the most tired of all. I don’t like being this way. I’m somehow all crumpled inside and I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do. I’ve gotten lost deep inside and I can’t find a way out.”

With such a heavy and internally destructive thought process, it’s difficult to remember that this is the internal struggle of a boy under the age of 10! Were it not for the young and inexperienced writing style, this could easily be the thought process of a depressed adult. Granted, this book was written many years after the events described, and Gnarr himself calls this book fiction in an author’s note at the beginning, because any retelling of memory warps over time and can become more or less significant or meaningful as emphasis on certain events of our childhood become heightened by later experiences. Even so, it is clear that Gnarr’s childhood was anything but ordinary, fraught with experiences that could have had a much more destructive lasting impact on him. Though more on his later years is yet to come in his second and third installments of this trilogy. (Yes, The Indian is just the first book in Gnarr’s incredible story.)

The Indian is refreshingly original because it not only speaks to a very specific subset of people who have learned to cope with, or are learning to cope with their learning disabilities, but also anyone who has ever experienced feeling like an outcast or alone in their childhood, aka: Everyone. Gnarr’s story is incredibly relevant to all our lives and this is a book that needed to be written. Not only for Gnarr to get his thought out or come to a better understanding of his own childhood, but for readers everywhere who want to experience a book that makes them feel and reflect on their childhood rather than simply read a story about someone else’s. Because of this, The Indian is a uniquely refreshing and fantastic read. Published by the up and coming Deep Vellum publishing house out of Deep Ellum in Dallas, Texas, this story of Jón Gnarr, similarly to how it was necessary to write, is a book that must be read.
Good Points
Wonderful voice and a great story
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