I really enjoyed Star Wars Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully (and it's two predecessors). It is a very cute story, that is light and fun and reminds us how difficult it can be at that age. Your first feelings for a girl/boy, your first fight with your best friend, dealing with bullies, trying to understand teachers. Of course, the books are targeted to that age group, I'm just a geek who enjoys Star Wars.
|What? It's a Star Wars book.|
I think Roan is a relateable main character. He is clever, but awkward. He is new to the school, wants to be cool, but also values good grades. I like that his artwork is valued and popular with the kids at the school; I think it is important to show that the arts are important.
Though she isn't the star of the story, Gaiana is a great character. She is smart, independent, and loyal. She is shown having her own awkward growing pains, but that doesn't not in any way change how Roan feels about her. I also loved that she comes in first, not Roan or even his best friend, Pasha. Also, the person who was best at sports was the new girl, Lilly.
I also appreciate the subtle diversity of the story, which I didn't pick up on until part way through the book. Roan's best friend, Pasha, is clearly a person of colour. Roan's last name is Novachez, and it looks as though his father is dark-haired, while his mother has lighter hair. It's kind of hard to tell, since the book is in black and white. Most of the rest of Roan's classmates are aliens. So, they could be whatever colour. I don't know if that was on purpose or just how Jeffrey Brown saw his own middle school. There maybe could have been a couple more girls, but it was still pretty good.
I really enjoyed the Jedi Academy series and in a year or two, I will be giving (lending?) the books to my daughter. Brown has also written some adorable children's books, so I'm wondering what his next project will be.
Also, a quick note on his "about the author" bit at the end, it is really cute. Brown has drawn himself in the style of the book, as a Jedi, using the Force to levitate little drawings of all his books. I really like a fun, quirky, unique about the author blurb.
(Did I just end this post with "blurb"?)