Like its predecessor this is a graphic-comic-chapter-book, and as such it works very well. But, this is the second Jedi Academy book. As the second volume it does not benefit from the novelty that helped sustain the first book, and it needs a plot and some narrative urgency to keep it from being just more of the same.
My bottom line is that the book does a fine job of addressing middle school life and works some interesting variations on the standard school daze conventions, but remains of special interest mostly because of the Star Wars angle, (not that there's anything wrong with that).
In Volume One Mr. Brown took practically every important aspect of the Star Wars canon, rewrote it in a style that would be interesting for and accessible to an early reader, illustrated it with very clever and apt illustrations, and wrapped it all up as a "school days" adventure that featured a realistic and engaging hero.
In this book we move to a more advanced level - addressing the kinds of missteps a middle grader could make with his friends and classmates and also celebrating the kinds of adventures and victories a middle grader could encounter. The experience feels authentic rather than contrived and Roan remains a decent and engaging hero. (It seems worth noting that a running theme through the book is a cautionary tale about the misuse of holobook, (read facebook), as a bullying tool. This is an especially timely topic and fits nicely into the whole middle school experience.)
But as before, the true genius here is the way that everything is based on Star Wars. There are lots of inside jokes and references, so that you have both an engaging story that is open to a Star Wars newbie and an immersive and sly Star Wars compendium for really rabid fans.
The book is written at a chapter book or slightly higher level, but because it is a graphic novel with collages, inserts, extra illustrations, letters home, vacation photos and the like it feels a little bit more like a comic book. I could see this as being a really effective book for the purpose of moving a young reader from chapter books to more demanding fare.
For what it's worth, Academy training includes a lot of emphasis on concentration, calm, courage, honesty, loyalty and similar virtues. While there is no particular political or moral point being made by the book it gives the story events a little bit of old fashioned positive instruction that I found welcome. The students are all decent and realistic, and the overall feel of the book is upbeat and positive.
So, if your young reader is a Star Wars fan, or just looking for an early reader that's a bit out of the ordinary, this could be a very nice choice.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
on 16 August 2014
I've really been looking forward to this sequel ever since I finished the first book. I'd say this one is probably even better than the first because rather than just being a story of events in the life of a first year away at school, this volume actually has a plot. Roan spends the year having a misunderstanding with his closest friends making them grow apart and not really speaking to each other all year. By virtue of being assigned to team up with them for a class project he finds himself with the bully/bad apple kids and starts joining their group feeling good belonging to this "cool" but troublesome clique. They are really only using him though because he is smart and it gives them an in on making it easier to tease the "good" kids. So overall this is a story of friendship and a good read for that. The set up is the same as last time though I'd classify it as a graphic novel as there are probably more classic panel/bubble pages than other forms such as: journal entries, homework pages, school posters, school newsletter, class schedules, report cards, etc. It will appeal to "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" fans but is also out to entertain Star Wars fans as well.