Pukawiss The Outcast, Jay Jordan Hawke
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: YA, Contemporary
When family complications take Joshua away from his fundamentalist Christian mother and leave him with his grandfather, he finds himself immersed in a mysterious and magical world. Joshua’s grandfather is a Wisconsin Ojibwe Indian who, along with an array of quirky characters, runs a recreated sixteenth-century village for the tourists who visit the reservation. Joshua’s mother kept him from his Ojibwe heritage, so living on the reservation is liberating for him. The more he learns about Ojibwe traditions, the more he feels at home.
One Ojibwe legend in particular captivates him. Pukawiss was a powerful manitou known for introducing dance to his people, and his nontraditional lifestyle inspires Joshua to embrace both his burgeoning sexuality and his status as an outcast. Ultimately, Joshua summons the courage necessary to reject his strict upbringing and to accept the mysterious path set before him.
Jay Jordan Hawke has written a very good Young Adult novel for teenagers. It had a great plot, with strong elements of friendship, acceptance, religion, and family. I was hooked from the first chapter.
Joshua, the main character, is a fourteen-year old who is half Ojibwe Indian, and half white. After his father left, his mother decided she needed to get away for a while, so she told him he was going to stay with his grandfather, his father’s father. I felt bad for Joshua at that point in the story. He was struggling with his sexuality, mostly, I believe, due to the fact he was living with a very hardcore Christian mother who never filtered her disgust for gay people. She was also a very cold woman. She wasn’t a woman I would give an award to.
When Joshua arrived on the reservation he met two people who became very important to him. The first being his grandfather, Gentle Eagle. As a character, Gentle Eagle was everything I could have wanted him to be after Joshua’s mother. He was loving and supportive and as his name would suggest, he was a very gentle man. Funny, but gentle. He gave Joshua the love and support he should have received from his mother, but sadly, didn’t. The second character, and he was one I took a shining to immediately, was Joshua’s best friend, Mokwa. For me, Mokwa was a character who fast became one of my favorites in the story. He was a bit naive, I guess, when it came to certain things, like Joshua’s crush on him. But mostly, he was a really great guy and the perfect friend for Joshua.
Throughout this book Joshua grew quite a bit. He started out angry, and I believe he had a right to be. Both of his parents abandoned him and he was moving in with a man he didn’t know. None of that is easy on a teenager, especially when it’s as sudden as it was for him. In the end, he came out of it alright and the change was there. Joshua also made the decision to learn the art of Fancy Dancing, which was started by Pukawiss, a man who was known for his differences. Pukawiss is also the nickname given to Joshua by Mokwa, so I felt the connection to the dance for him. Also, with Joshua’s sexuality and his struggle to accept who he was, his learning of Two-Spirit’s couldn’t have come at a better time for him. He really needed something that would help him realize that it was okay for him to be gay.
For the last couple of chapters – excluding the epilogue – my heart broke for Joshua. After he had finally settled in and started to find himself, something major happened. I already hated his mother with a passion. I really wanted her to come back and accept Joshua the way he was and love him, or stay out of the story completely. Neither of those things happened. I understand why the author wrote it this way, as it made it more realistic, I guess. At the same time, I wanted something to go right for Joshua because, to me anyway, it appeared with her things didn’t go very well for him. I guess I just wanted to believe he would be able to stay with his grandfather and everything to go okay for him. I understand why the author did what he did and I appreciate it. Actually, it made me want to read the sequel even more than I did before. I really need to see Joshua end up happy and with people who really love and care about him.
Overall, this was a really great book. It was sort of different for me, while it still had a lot of my favorite aspects in a YA novel. This made this a very easy four star read for me.
Jay Jordan Hawke has written a novel that has only left me wanting more of this story and these characters. I am very excited for the re-release of the sequel.
This book was provided by Harmony Ink Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.