Sherman Alexie has worked in multiple genres: poetry, novels, and short stories. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, he writes his first ever young adult novel. Alexie explores the subject of reservation life through the eyes of a teenage boy. This approach allows him to speak to a teenage audience by touching on themes resonant with younger readers (for example, the search for identity, the awkwardness of being a teen, and the desire to leave home).
Alexie has said in interviews that he hopes the novel will inspire kids in poverty – and give them the strength they need to change their situation. He writes: "I'm really hoping it reaches a lot of native kids certainly, but also poor kids of any variety who feel trapped by circumstance, by culture, by low expectations, I'm hoping it helps get them out" (source: James Meillis, "Interview with Sherman Alexie," 2007, Conversations with Sherman Alexie, 183).
Alexie has stated that he writes "colonial literature" (source), which means a kind of writing about people who have been colonized by a dominant power or culture. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian would fall into this category since Arnold's family, and the rest of the Native people on the Spokane Reservation, have been displaced onto the reservation by white colonizers. We see the harsh results of this displacement in Arnold's descriptions of the poverty, alcoholism, and death rampant on the rez.