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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*I Am Apache* by Tanya Landman- young adult book review  
I Am Apache
by Tanya Landman
Grades 7+ 320 pages Candlewick August 2008 Hardcover    

Fourteen-year-old Siki of the Black Mountain Apache has already lost her mother and father. During an attack on her people by the Mexicans, Siki sees her four-year-old brother brutally murdered. Despite her gender, Siki decides that she will avenge her family by becoming a warrior and devoting her life to killing the men who took away those she loved most. Set in the final years of the 19th century, I Am Apache is a poorly researched tale of Siki’s journey from a girl to a woman warrior who thinks of very little except revenge and bloodshed.

I have only a passing knowledge of the Apache (or any other Native American people) but understand that the Apache never used that term in referring to themselves. Yet Siki does use the term, and she uses it frequently. This is only one of the factual errors that appear in this book.

Certainly it is impossible for any writer to accurately address every facet of a culture, particularly in a historical setting. Author Tanya Landman explains that the book is “based on” certain events and “inspired by” the autobiography of Geronimo. She is upfront in admitting that she has “made no attempt to produce an accurate historical novel…” and in the acknowledgements she thanks her family for their patience during a time when her “mind was almost entirely in Arizona.” Given that Ms. Landman lives in England, it is understandable that being physically present in Arizona would require more effort than simply imagining the place. Still, one hopes that she merely forgot to mention that she did visit the setting at least once before writing her novel.

Authors are certainly allowed to take liberties with the fictional worlds and people they create – that’s what makes it fiction, after all. The larger problem with I Am Apache is that the characters and plot are one-dimensional: everything is aimed at Siki’s goal of revenge. The young adult audience for whom the book is written will find nothing here of the rich and meaningful culture of Native Americans, nor will they find characters with depth and complexity. Landman has written a dismal book filled with violence that I cannot in good conscience recommend.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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