I found Star Wars Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown to be delightful. Unlike its predecessors (Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess), this book contains only one familiar face from the Star Wars movies: Yoda.
Instead, it follows the adventures of young would-be pilot Roan Novachez, who winds up enrolled at the Jedi Academy (hey, it beats Tatooine Agriculture Academy). The tale is told via the perspective of Roan’s own sketchbook/journal, comics, and letters home.
The book includes everything you’d expect of a first-year-at-a-boarding-school type book: struggling with new situations and unfamiliar subjects, making friends, dealing with class bullies, finding places to fit in, experiencing a first crush, all the usual. Star Wars Jedi Academy is not dissimilar to Harry Potter in the Star Wars universe (except for the fact that Roan really is an ordinary kid who spends most of the year trying to figure out how to use the Force).
The “usual” has some fun twists. For example, three of Roan’s professors do not speak a language he can easily understand: droid student advisor RW-22 speaks binary, Kitmum the PE teacher only speaks Wookie, and Yoda speaks the same language, but inside-out and backwards. Young Roan finds his niche not through discovering some amazing new ability but by drawing comics for the school newspaper. Also, departing from most boarding school tales, Roan is the middle child in a normal, well-adjusted home life.
Star Wars Jedi Academy featured strong characterization. Roan is well-developed, believable, and fun. The book’s take on Yoda is delightful, and each of the professors are interesting and unique. In their fairly brief appearances, all members of Roan’s family are clearly distinguished from each other, fun, and memorable.
Roan’s friends at school have clear, well-developed reasons for becoming his friends, with credible tests to their friendships. Roan’s first crush is tastefully and humorously handled. The student council president (and race) is skewered (figuratively) in glorious fashion. Roan’s foes…are limited by the fact that we only have Roan’s perspective, but for what they are, they’re interesting and suitable foils for our very self-conscious young protagonist.
I’m usually not a fan of books told from the first-person perspective, but the straight-forward, self-deprecating style that Brown adopts for Roan is charming. The “letters home” are gold. The comics consistently made me giggle–and wince–exactly where they were supposed to. I found Star Wars Jedi Academy to be a wonderfully fresh and funny perspective on a comfortably familiar fictional universe.
Release Date: August 27, 2013 (USA)
ISBNs: 0545505178 (9780545505178)
Violence: 1 (light saber dueling tournament, very mild bullying situations)