Jennifer has never felt normal. Half Cherokee, half white, curvy but never skinny, she is somewhat of an anomaly in her native southern Oregon. Raised by parents with their own mental health issues, she learns early on that the only thing she can expect from them is the unexpected. Leaving home as a teenager, Jennifer stumbles through life in her desire to be accepted and loved. The book follows Jennifer on her journey as she tries to please others before – finally – trying to please herself.
The Wrong Kind of Indian, by Jay Tehya, is a compelling, heart-wrenching and hopeful novel about a young woman trying to find love and acceptance and, in general, figure out her life. Written from a first person perspective, the book alternates current and prior events in a way that is thoughtful and enhances the story instead of distracting the reader. The writing is descriptive and vivid throughout. The reader aches for Jennifer as she tries repeatedly to make herself different so that others will love her. It’s painful to see her accept scraps of affection because it’s all she thinks she can get. It’s almost a relief to the reader when Jennifer realizes that she needs to get healthy – both mentally and physically – and takes steps to do so. It’s refreshing that the author doesn’t feel compelled to resolve everything or have Jennifer be completely healthy by the end of the book. A neat, wrapped up ending would have been a disservice to her story and to Jennifer herself. Jennifer is a highly relatable main character – especially for anyone who has ever been made to feel less than or unacceptable as they are. Women especially, will likely relate to Jennifer’s struggles with weight and the magical thinking that life would be perfect if only they were skinny. Overall, The Wrong Kind of Indian is a stunning and heartfelt book that will resonate with readers.
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