Joining the quickly growing genre of “books that are part journal, part graphic novel, and aimed primarily at middle school boys” is Star Wars: Jedi Academy. It’s a cute quick read, but not my favorite entry in this competitive field. Aside from a veneer of Star Wars, it’s pretty much par for the course.
Roan leaves home to attend Jedi Academy, which wasn’t his first choice. There he faces self-doubt, moderate bullying, the challenges of making new friends, and a cute girl. It’s fine, and a fun read for Star Wars fans.
My 11 year old son read it and liked it. He says it’s a good book for to read between long books. He also said I didn’t need to write a review since there’s really nothing to say. He’s not wrong. But I’ll find some things to talk about anyway.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
It’s a middle school book. Of course there are bullies. They’re run of the mill—mostly words, not really any violence or physical bulling—and Yoda gives some advice for dealing with them that’s pretty much just platitudes. “Hmmm. More about himself, a bully’s words are.” Thanks, Yoda.
I was glad to see plenty of female students and teachers. There are probably some stereotypes buried in here, but really nothing jumped out at me. In the lightsaber tournament, Roan is beaten by a girl and no one says anything about it.
Of course Roan gets a crush on one of the girls. It’s requited in chaste middle school ways—blushing, notes passed, silly excuses made to see each other, a dance, a hug and a peck on the cheek at the end of the school year. There’s some mild teasing from his friends, but nothing major.
Roan is new to the school, and most of the kids have been together since they were young (padawans typically start training as toddlers, apparently). It takes him a while to fit in, and when he screws up he worries that his new friendships can’t handle the stress. But his friends forgive him faster than he forgives himself.
Roan is a conscientious student, but he still struggles a bit in school. Using the Force is particularly difficult; he worries that everyone else is better than he is and that he’s at the wrong school. He really wants to be a pilot, but he didn’t get into Pilot Academy. He REALLY doesn’t want to go to Tatooine Agriculture Academy—“Plant School,” as he calls it, is definitely something he (and apparently many kids on Tatooine) looks down on.
If your kid is devouring books like this, there’s no reason not to add this to the list. It’s a good introduction to the genre for young readers, too. There are lots of pictures, the text never goes on for more than two pages, and the whole book looks hand printed. There are many puns and in-jokes aimed at Star Wars fans. There’s not much depth to the story—I think the Origami Yoda series deals with similar issues with much more insight—but it’s a nice diversion. I’d recommend it for ages 8 and up; even though it takes place in middle school, it will be easy for younger kids to identify with the characters. It’s aimed squarely at reluctant tween reads, and I think it hits that mark.
Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
Published in 2013 by Scholastic
Probably the start of a series (my son hopes it is)
Read my son’s copy