With the recent release of “The Force Awakens” comes a slew of books and comics that provide some insight into the new movies and its characters. Now that Disney has set aside the much loved (or hated) Expanded Universe (depending on your point of view), there are new stories to take its place. While some fans are embracing this change others are mourning the fact that 30+ years of literature have now been relegated to the “Legends” pile making them pretty much null and void to the new timeline. Before I review some of the newer titles for children and teens let me add the following disclaimer:
Personally I like some of the new changes. I have not had the chance to explore the EU as much as I would have liked. There is so much of it that for years I have struggled on where to even begin my reading journey. That being said the EU has some fantastic series that I have read and wonderful stories that are sadly no longer cannon. Several of these series were personal favorites of mine and I am a little bit bummed that they are no longer part of the official story. However, I also love almost all of the new stories that have been recently published. If anything these books are hooking new fans into this amazing universe of geeky awesome. As a librarian I have seen many young fans jumping on the book bandwagon and lots of those fans are girls! It warms my heart that there are new books out there that introduce Star Wars to kids in a way that they can understand and appreciate. The publishers have done a great job at providing books for all ages and reading levels.
I am going to attempt to keep this mostly spoiler free in case some out there have not seen the movie yet. However, if you are worried stop reading now and bookmark this post for later after you have seen the movie. Some of these books require that I give you some scenes from the movie so that the review makes sense. Books with spoilers have (*) next to the title. Trust me, I am not going to give away the big twist. Plus, if anyone feels the need to be a Jar Jar and comment with spoilers I will delete and have Boba Fett hunt you down. Don’t be a Jar Jar..
Books for kids/tweens:
Star Wars Trilogy for young readers: Disney Lucasfilm Press
These three titles follow Episodes 4-6. Each is written by a different author that takes the reader through the movies using beloved characters to tell the tale. These are targeted at ages 8 – 12 so adult readers don’t get your socks in a bunch over the simplified plot line. They are made specifically for kids to give them an understanding of some of the themes presented in the movie.
So You Want To Be A Jedi? – By Adam Gidwitz
In the first addition to the series we follow Luke Skywalker through scenes from The Empire Strikes Back. It is told in both a second person and third person narrative that gets mixed reviews online. Most of the negative reviews come from people who have listened to the audio-book instead of reading it so you might stick with the print version. It has gotten good reviews from kids who like learning about what it takes to become a Jedi. The book shows how Luke trains with the force and has lessons about meditation, compassion, and other Jedi tidbits between each chapter. It is a fun book for kids and one that I think they will enjoy.
Target age: 8-12
The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy- By Alexandra Bracken
This story is a retelling of The New Hope from the view points of Leia, Han, and Luke. Each character tells their own story about overcoming perceptions and becoming the beloved figures that we know today. This is a great intro for kids who are just starting their journey into Star Wars literature. It is a fast read and the author has taken information from the radio drama script, some of the still cannon EU, and scenes from her own imagination that still feel true to each character. Out of the three, this one was my favorite and is a great book to get to know the characters on a more personal level.
Target age: 8-12
Return of the Jedi Beware the Power of the Dark Side!- By Tom Angleberger
The final book in the series focuses on the events from Return of the Jedi. In this book you will find a retelling sprinkled with humor, fantastic illustrations, and hilarious footnotes. It keeps the campy narrative feel from the movies that will appeal to younger readers. Add more explosions and Ewoks and you have an all around entertaining read for all ages. Tom Angleberger is one of my favorite authors and his books are very popular with the younger crowd. This one has more humor than the other three and is good for kids that liked “Origami Yoda” and similar stories.
Target age: 8-12
Journey to the Force Awakens- Disney Lucasfilm Press
The next series has new stories that feature members of our favorite trio. These are for kids a bit older and have a squint more violence than the others. The illustrations in these are fantastic and help move the reader along. I love the layout of each chapter and hunting for hints about the new movies!
**Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo Adventure – By Greg Rucka
Join your favorite smuggling duo for a new adventure aboard the Millennium Falcon! Tasked with saving a key member of the rebellion from a sinister new villain , Han will need to use all of his smooth talking and blaster shooting skills to win the day. Filled with humor and a scary new female villain with a cyborg eye, readers will love this fast paced middle grade novel. The story is told in a series of flashbacks from a jaded Han in search of his beloved ship. Where could it possibly be? While this doesn’t have a lot of info key to the new movie it still is a good read with fantastic illustrations.
Target age: 10-14
**Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure- By Jason Fry
Luke is being sent out on a diplomatic mission instead of fighting the Imperials in his trusty x-wing. But, all is not as it seems when he lands on a planet with ruins from an old Jedi temple. As Luke explores the force he attracts the attention of a new villain bent on destruction. This is another fast paced read that brings together several story-lines from the Clone Wars cartoon and the original trilogy. Luke doesn’t just rely on his lightsaber to save the day and other elements of the force are explored in the story. Is this mysterious temple key to the new movie? Read and find out!
Target age: 10-14
**Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Moving Target- By Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry
Set between the Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope, readers follow Leia on a new and dangerous mission for the Rebel Legion. Told in a series of memoirs this story lets Leia’s wit and boldness shine. Paired with wonderful illustrations and a key appearance from Luke this novel is a good addition to the trilogy. While the adventure is not as daunting or perilous as Han and Luke’s from the first two novels, this one still adds important details to the Star Wars Universe. There are not as many sneak peaks into the new movie other than a character reference and some clues into Leia’s upcoming role.
Target age: 10-14
**Star Wars: Before the Awakening – By Greg Rucka
MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUT REY, FINN, AND POE AHEAD!! – Just not the big one! Promise!
After watching the movie I was dying to know several things. One- Why on earth is it so easy for Finn to abandon his life as a stormtrooper and go MIA? Seriously, he is a First Order Trooper trained from birth so you would think that he would have had more reservations. One of his own calls him a traitor later on in the movie and is pretty bent on revenge with this weapon that stops a freaking lightsaber?!!! What??!!! Well this book mostly answers these questions while still leaving a bit of mystery. You get some great background into Finn’s training and his squad members. You also get a glimpse into the new weaponry of the First Order. This character chapter is perhaps the most important (in my opinion) in the entire book.
Two- Who is Rey? How does she know how to fly? Well the first does not get answered beyond some minor character development. The second helps you understand why she is able to fly the most awesome ship in the galaxy and fix pretty much anything she touches. Everything else is left up to speculation. (cue epic fangirl sigh of frustration)
Three- Why is Poe the best pilot in the Resistance? Who is he anyway? His chapter explores the origins of his story starting with facts about his parentage and how he gets into the resistance. Readers looking for more stories and clues about his squad will get a few teasers and minor character development. The biggest intrigue is the First Order and his discovery about their some of their dastardly deeds.
All in all this does help with some questions I had after watching the movie. I am still dying to know who Rey really is and I want more stories about Poe and that mysterious dude in the dessert. These are not major plot changing stories but they do give some insight into the motivations of each character. A short quick read.
Target age: 8-12
A Book for Teens:
Lost Stars (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
by Claudia Gray
This is a Teen novel set during the time of the Empire and the original trilogy. Keep in mind that this is not a novel for a younger audience due to violence and adult situations (some sex- not descriptive). The characters end up facing some pretty ugly situations that require them to consider what it means to be loyal. Older readers will understand the struggles a bit more so I do recommend this to teens 13 and up due to the content. Parents might want to read this first before handing it to anyone younger. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way… I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!
As a teen librarian this is one of my favorite books of 2015. It has action, romance that does not involve a love triangle, realistic hard choices, and characters that I actually cared about.
Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree come from a planet where honor and loyalty is something that flows through your veins. Thrown together by their love of ships and their desire to fly away to new adventures we follow them to the Imperial Academy where loyalty and friendship are put to the ultimate test. Both characters have a voice in this exciting new series that fits almost seamlessly into the events from Episodes 4-6. In these books you will see the perspective of an Imperial Officer and a Rebel Pilot. This book is more than just a romance as it challenges readers to think about both sides of the fight.
Things I loved:
I really connected with both characters. Getting to see the perspective of an Imperial Officer throughout their career and during the destruction of both Death Stars is something that I didn’t know I would care about until this book. The author created a world within the Imperial Forces that feels real. I get why some of the cadets turn into fanatical madmen who will stop at nothing to destroy planets. The brainwashing and control is explored in detail that made me cringe at times and want to pull the character out of the pages and shake sense into them!
I like that popular characters like Vader, Leia, and Tarkin are not scene stealers when they show up in the book. They add to the story but they don’t take over the plot. You get glimpses of them as they interact with the main characters but it doesn’t feel forced or out of place.
I loved that the romance was not a triangle! You get to grow up with both Ciena and Thane from age eight until they are in their 20’s. The friendship and eventual romance makes sense without using all the tired YA troupes and lame cliches. I rooted for them and I am not a romance reader! I did like that the smexy times were not super descriptive. It was basically hey baby, smoochy time and fade to black. However, there are some steamy moments and steamy thoughts from the characters later on.
I loved the ending where you end up on Jakku. OMG! That made me create my own fangirl conspiracy theories as to who a certain female character might be.
Things that I didn’t like:
That there isn’t more to read right now! If I was being picky I would say that there were not enough details about the new movie included in this title. It gives you just enough to make you go “really?!!” and then frantically flip pages to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Please let there be a second!! I did enjoy this one and that is not just the Star Wars fangirl speaking. It was a fast paced read with romance and adventure that fits well into the universe as we now know it!
I will be reviewing more Star Wars books as they become available. I hope to provide reviews for a variety of ages and reading levels so stay tuned.
May the love of reading be with you and happy holidays!