Arnold Spirit, Jr. known to most people simply as Junior, is a fourteen year old kid growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
He suffers from some physical problems from a birth defect and is teased by the other kids on the reservation, his only friend is a big tough kid called Rowdy who protects him from bullies, maybe because his own father beats him. Junior dreams of becoming a cartoonist but because of the poverty around him he doesn't think he will have that opportunity. He spends the days hanging out with Rowdy and watching the adults around him drink and fight.
At the start of the school year he receives his new textbook and sees his mother's name written in it, making him realize the book is over thirty years old since that was how long ago she was fourteen herself. Infuriated at the poverty and hopelessness he throws the book and it hits a teacher in the face. He is suspended and his family is terribly upset, but the teacher understands why it happened and tells him that he needs to get out before it is too late and should attend a school outside of the reservation.
His parents support the decision and send him to the all-white Reardan High School where Arnold still finds himself as an outsider as the only Indian there. He has a hard time since the other kids are also all rich compared to him and his family, but eventually he finds a place for himself by dating a popular girl and by joining the basketball team.
Junior now finds himself going between two worlds and not quite fitting in either one. He stands out among the kids at Reardan, but when he goes home there is a lot of resentment from friends who see his choice to leave as a betrayal, he has a falling out with Rowdy as a consequence.
Towards the end of the school year the basketball teams of his old and new schools square off and he finds himself competing against Rowdy. Wanting to win the game, but also knowing how little the kids on the other team have going for them, Junior feels conflicted but finds the game turning violent between him and Rowdy.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's a serious but sweet look at the problems of living in two cultures, and whether you can be happy doing so.
Best scene in story:
When Rowdy and Junior play basketball at the very end, it's very touching and the friendship feels very real.
Opinion about the main character:
He's conflicted but caught in an impossible situation, but moves forward anyway and accepts his choices while trying to be the best person he can be.