Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Momotaro #1)

Release Date: April 5, 2016
Author: Margaret Dilloway
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 320 pages
Source: Library Audiobook

Xander Miyamoto would rather do almost anything than listen to his sixth grade teacher, Mr. Stedman, drone on about weather disasters happening around the globe. If Xander could do stuff he's good at instead, like draw comics and create computer programs, and if Lovey would stop harassing him for being half Asian, he might not be counting the minutes until the dismissal bell.

When spring break begins, at last, Xander plans to spend it playing computer games with his best friend, Peyton. Xander's father briefly distracts him with a comic book about some samurai warrior that pops out of a peach pit. Xander tosses it aside, but Peyton finds it more interesting.

Little does either boy know that the comic is a warning. They are about to be thrust into the biggest adventure of their lives-a journey wilder than any Xander has ever imagined, full of weird monsters even worse than Lovey. To win at this deadly serious game they will have to rely on their wits, courage, faith, and especially, each other. Maybe Xander should have listened to Mr. Stedman about the weather after all....



Protagonist: Xander Miyamoto would rather play video games with his best friend Peyton than pay attention when his teacher is droning on and on about global warming and the natural disasters happening around the world. However, after his father is taken away by a giant tidal wave, he discovers a startling family secret and goes on a journey to save his father, and possibly the world. Xander is a pretty standard MG protagonist. He's not too into school, he has a wild and vivid imagination, and what sets him apart makes him special. I honestly wish I could have connected better with Xander, I think MG aged readers would connect better with him, but as an adult I honestly found him to be a bit too whiny and self-deprecating.

World Building: So, while this is an MG book that deals with foreign folklore, I wasn't expecting it to be like a Rick Riordan book, though with it being from the same publisher maybe I had a bit of hope. It's definitely not as gripping as a Riordan novel, though maybe I wasn't in the right headspace when I read it or maybe I didn't have enough knowledge of Japanese folklore for it to really pop out and grip me. The Japanese folklore elements, especially the story of Momotaro, were interesting to encounter in the story. Whenever I did know what something was or recognize a Japanese word I did perk up a bit, but honestly, the pacing and storytelling was a bit more juvenile than I would have liked. Again, I think it'd be great for someone who is MG aged but wasn't as gripping for me as an adult.

Predictability: Something I noticed pretty early in this story is that the author is pretty heavy-handed with the foreshadowing. I understand that covers are chosen after a book is, at the very least, mostly completed, but after acknowledging something on the cover, I almost felt constantly beaten over the head with foreshadowing that hints at that reveal, and honestly I think it would have felt that way even if I had never seen the cover. There are a few other twists where the foreshadowing was heavy-handed, I think there was only one large twist that wasn't completely obvious way before its reveal and I was still able to figure it out long before the secret came out.

Ending: The ending of this story really isn't that bad. In fact, I can appreciate how everything came together in the end and I really did enjoy the final climax of the story. It had a great bit of action and tension, and even after what happens with the main threat there's still a great bit of gripping tension before the final cooldown period begins. I think if the book had gripped me more during the bulk of the story I would have been more invested in the ending, but objectively it is quite an exciting ending. The story does end with a rather predictable twist at the end, but it's a twist that I'll admit I'm a bit curious to discover more about.


Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this book quite a bit, but it just wasn't as gripping as I would have liked and the protagonist did rub me the wrong way from time to time. That being said the second book does sound pretty compelling and while I don't think I'll get to it right away as I had planned, I will try to get to it sometime next month.


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