Chapter 1: The Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club
Arnold Spirit, Jr. ("Junior") was born with excess cerebral spinal fluid on his brain. Because of his various physical characteristics, such as his large head, stutter, and eyeglasses, the other kids on the Spokane reservation call him names and beat him up. He loves to draw cartoons, which he thinks might make him rich and allow him to leave the reservation someday.
Chapter 2: Why Chicken Means so Much to Me
Junior's family is poor, but his parents always manage to bring fast food home. With better opportunities, Junior says his mother would have been a college professor and his father, a jazz musician. When his dog, Oscar, became sick and the family couldn't afford a vet, his dad took Oscar outside and shot him.
Chapter 3: Revenge Is my Middle Name
Junior says his best friend, Rowdy, was born on the same day as he, also has an alcoholic father but one who beats him, is violent but loves Junior's cartoons, and might be more important to Junior than his family. Rowdy vandalizes a minivan, and Junior runs away into the Andruss triplets' camp, who beat him. As revenge, Rowdy sneaks into the triplets’ tent while they sleep, shaves off their eyebrows, cuts their braids, and starts a rumor saying the Makah tribe did it.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 1–3
Chapter 4: Because Geometry Is Not a Country Somewhere Near France
Junior says his sister, Mary, spends most of the day doing nothing in the family basement, but he loves her nonetheless. Junior is excited for the try out for the basketball team and for his first high school geometry class. At his first class, Mr. P, his old white teacher, gives Junior his textbook. When Junior sees his mother signed the book years earlier, he throws the book in Mr. P's face.
Chapter 5: Hope Against Hope
After Junior is suspended from school, Mr. P visits him at home, tells Junior he is the smartest student he has ever had after his sister, Mary, and says Junior's only hope is to leave the reservation.
Chapter 6: Go Means Go
Junior asks to be transferred to Reardan, a public school for white children. Junior's dad says it will be hard to get him to school there and his mom warns the other reservation children will hate him for leaving, but they support Junior and agree to help him.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 4–6
Chapter 7: Rowdy Sings the Blues
Junior tries to convince Rowdy to transfer to Reardan with him, but Rowdy hates Reardan for beating their school's teams. When Junior insists and touches Rowdy's shoulders, Rowdy calls him a slur and punches him.
Chapter 8: How to Fight Monsters
Junior's dad drives him to Reardan and reminds him he is a warrior and not "less-than" white people. Junior notices the school mascot is a Native American and sees a cartoon illustrating the differences between a white and a Native American student. In the homeroom, he introduces himself as Junior to a girl named Penelope and then has to explain his other name is Arnold when the teacher uses it. When a boy named Roger says a racial slur, Junior punches him and tells Roger to meet him there after school. Roger doesn't understand and walks away.
Chapter 9: Grandmother Gives Me Some Advice
Junior goes home confused, tells his grandmother what happened, and she concludes that Roger walking away must mean he respects Junior. The next day, as Junior walks to school because their car doesn't have enough gas, his dad's best friend, Eugene, gives him a ride on his motorcycle. Roger says hi to Junior, compliments Eugene's bike, and walks away. When Junior says hi to Penelope, she pretends not to know him.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 7–9
Chapter 10: Tears of a Clown
Junior remembers how, at the age of twelve, he told Rowdy he was in love with Dawn, the best traditional powwow dancer on the reservation, and Rowdy said she didn't care about him, making Junior cry.
Chapter 11: Halloween
For Halloween, Junior and Penelope both go to school dressed as a homeless person. As Penelope tells him she is going to trick-or-treat for spare change to raise money for the homeless, Junior says he will also trick-or-treat for change to protest the treatment of homeless Native Americans. As Junior walks home after trick-or-treating on the reservation, three guys in masks beat him. He tells Penelope what happened, and she offers to put both their names on her donation.
Chapter 12: Slouching Toward Thanksgiving
Junior corrects the geology teacher and is supported by the class genius, Gordy. He thanks Gordy for sticking up for him, but Gordy says he was sticking up for science. When Junior gets home, his mom is crying because Mary got married and ran away. Inspired by his sister's courage, Junior asks Gordy to be his friend. Gordy helps him study, encourages him to draw cartoons and enjoy literature, and Junior feels he is a joyous freak at Reardan.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 10–12
Chapter 13: My Sister Sends Me an Email
Mary sends Junior an email saying she loves Montana, has recently ridden a horse for the first time, is looking for a job, and that some towns on her reservation have more white people than Native Americans.
Chapter 14: Thanksgiving
During the Thanksgiving meal, Junior questions what Native Americans are thankful for, and his father answers they should be thankful white people didn't kill them all. Junior draws a cartoon of himself and Rowdy as superheroes giving each other a fist bump and takes it to Rowdy's house, but Rowdy's father says he is not home and makes fun of the drawing.
Chapter 15: Hunger Pains
Junior hears someone throwing up in the girls' bathroom and discovers it is Penelope. She says she is bulimic, and he tells her not to give up. They become a couple. Penelope's father tells Junior to stay away from his daughter. Junior reflects on how she might be dating him just because he is new, but that he also uses her to become more popular.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 13–15
Chapter 16: Rowdy Gives Me Advice About Love
Junior watches Penelope play volleyball in a white uniform, and he writes an email to Rowdy saying he is in love with a white girl and asks for advice. Rowdy replies that he is sick of Native Americans treating white girls as trophies. Junior asks Gordy for advice, and after some research, Gordy concludes that Junior is as racist as everyone else.
Chapter 17: Dance, Dance, Dance
Junior feels that being an Native American is like a part-time job that doesn't pay well. Junior takes Penelope to the winter dance and afterward goes to a diner with her and Roger. With only $5 and trying to disguise his poverty, he throws up, tells Roger he forgot his wallet, and Roger lends him $40. Penelope asks Junior if he is poor, and he confesses.
Chapter 18: Don't Trust Your Computer
Junior takes a picture of his smiling face and sends it to Rowdy, who sends back a picture of his bare bottom. After Gordy sees it, Junior says some Native American think you have to become white to get a better life. Gordy reflects that life is a constant struggle between being an individual and a member of the community. Junior wants to hug Gordy, but he tells him not to be sentimental.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 16–18
Chapter 19: My Sister Sends Me a Letter
Mary writes Junior a letter complaining that restaurants won't hire her without experience, that she has started writing her life story, and that she and her husband have moved into a trailer, which Mary calls the most beautiful place in the world.
Chapter 20: Reindeer Games
Junior tries out for the Reardan basketball team and makes varsity. When Reardan's team goes to Wellpinit, the local fans turn their backs to Junior. Someone throws a quarter at Junior’s head, and he leaves the game bleeding. Back in the game, Rowdy elbows him in the head, knocking him unconscious, and Junior is taken to the hospital with a concussion.
Chapter 21: And a Partridge in a Pear Tree
During the Christmas holiday, as the family doesn't have enough money, Junior's father goes on a bender on Christmas Eve and comes back on January 2nd.
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Chapter 22: Red Versus White
Junior concludes it is only slightly better to live in white Reardan than in Wellpinit. He says Native Americans used to respect eccentricity, but today Native Americans are intolerant. He says his grandmother's greatest gift is tolerance, but she was just struck and killed by a drunk driver. Her last words were "Forgive him," and Junior concludes she meant the man who hit her.
Chapter 23: Wake
After Junior’s grandmother's death, the Native Americans on the reservation stop hassling him. As 2,000 people came to her wake, they moved the coffin to a football field. After a billionaire named Ted makes a speech about returning a stolen Native American dance outfit to Grandmother Spirit, Junior's mother tells Ted this is not her outfit and that the experts who told him so were wrong. Everyone laughs, and Ted leaves the reservation.
Chapter 24: Valentine Heart
On Valentine's Day, Junior gives Penelope a homemade Valentine, and Eugene is shot by his friend Bobby over a last sip of wine. Junior copes by drawing cartoons and reading Euripides's plays. One day, when the social studies teacher taunts Junior, Gordy and the other students defend him and leave the classroom.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 22–24
Chapter 25: In Like a Lion
As Reardan hosts the Wellpinit basketball team for a rematch, Coach calls Junior Reardan's secret weapon and assigns him to guard Rowdy. When Reardan wins the game, Junior realizes his team is Goliath to Wellpinit's David, thinks about some of the Wellpinit's players' life problems, and cries in the locker room.
Chapter 26: Rowdy and I Have Long and Serious Discussion About Basketball
Junior writes Rowdy an email apologizing for beating Wellpinit, Rowdy replies they will beat Reardan next year, and Junior is happy Rowdy has talked to him again.
Chapter 27: Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses
Junior says all Native American families are unhappy because of alcohol. His father picks him up at school, saying his sister died in a fire in their trailer after a party. At home, Junior’s mom makes him promise never to drink. At the burial, Junior runs into the woods, bumps into Rowdy, who was watching in secret, and points out he is crying. Rowdy tries to punch him and says Junior killed Mary as she left the reservation because he did.
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Chapter 28: My Final Freshman Year Report Card
A cartoon of Junior's report card shows he got As in English, Geometry, P.E. and Computer Programming, an A- in History, a B+ in Geology, and a B- in Woodshop.
Chapter 29: Remembering
Junior and his parents go to the cemetery, clean Grandmother's, Eugene's, and Mary's graves, and have a picnic. His dad brings a saxophone and tells them the world is about love and death. His mother says she is proud of Junior. Junior cries for Mary and for his tribe. He lists other tribes he feels a part of: the tribes of cartoonists, poor people, and others. He thinks of Rowdy and misses him.
Chapter 30: Talking About Turtles
As Junior reminisces about his friends and his first year at Reardan, Rowdy shows up and they go play basketball. When Junior invites Rowdy to go to Reardan next year, he tells Junior he was reading a book about how Native Americans used to be nomadic and concluded Junior is the only nomadic Native American left on the reservation. Junior cries, and they continue to play one-on-one for hours and without keeping score.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 28–30