Monday, August 18, 2008

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X - A MotherTalk Review


The "reluctant reader" is a term we've been reading and hearing about a lot lately, usually referring to boys who just can't seem to get hooked on reading. Part of the solution is providing reluctant readers with books they actually want to read, rather than books we think they should be reading. The Dangerous Days of Daniel X is James Patterson's (and his co-author Michael Ledwidge) contribution to this concept of adolescent literature (although the jacket cover reads "James Patterson has written this story for readers from ten to a hundred and ten.").

When I first received a complementary copy of this book from MotherTalk, I was a little bit surprised at the cover of the book - red and black tones with an image of a solar eclipse on the front - it seemed more fitting for adult Clancy fans than for tween and teen boys. I can tell you that even as a brand spankin' new library media specialist, I know that kids do judge a book by its cover and I'm not so sure how much this one would appeal to them.

Moving from the exterior to the interior, we find the protagonist Daniel X, orphaned as a toddler, dedicated to avenging the death of his parents by taking on a number of gruesome aliens. My gut reaction to this book is that it seemed more of an outline than a finished product. It seemed sparse in places and I really did not feel attached to Daniel or particularly inspired by his mission. The nods to popular culture (PlayStation3s and Gladiator) are cute, but will become dated rather quickly. This book was a very quick read for me;I did appreciate the short chapters (often just two pages or so) and I think this will appeal to readers who get a little boost from completing smaller chunks of text rather than a feeling of slogging through long chapters.

I couldn't help but think that books such as Harry Potter and the soaring popularity of graphic novels such as American Born Chinese have shown us that reluctant readers are also drawn to complex tales with well developed characters, but I suppose even adults enjoy the occasional light fare and not all books for teens and tweens need to result in a bout of soul-searching. The Dangerous Days of Daniel X may accomplish exactly what James Patterson intended and inspire readers to read other books with similar but more richly fleshed out themes such as Sabriel or Feed.

6 comments:

ames said...

Very interesting. I would have pegged that book as adult fiction by the cover, somewhere in the realm of Michael Crichton.

I had a friend who read Sabriel in high school and she really liked it, and for some reason I keep stumbling across it at used book sales. I think it's a sign that I need to read it...

joanie said...

I have one of those male "reluctant readers" no, make that a VERY reluctant reader - he definitely chooses a book by the cover and the number of pages (the fewer the better!) His current favourites are Zac Power books by H.I. Larry. These books are considered below his reading age level (just turned 10) but he loves them and will read them without bribary :)

Elisabeth said...

My 9-year old girl is a reluctant reader too. It is painful to witness such a verbal and smart girl refuse to read.

Robin said...

I have mixed feelings about "adult" authors who want to write "children's" books. Some are OK- I'm thinking Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett- but most seem to be "writing down" to what they perceive as a children's level. If I were a kid, I'd see that as condescending.

As JK Rowling made abundantly clear, kids are perfectly capable of handling literary language, complexity of plot, and a far-flung tapestry of characters. What they require is a truly compelling story....

Priyanka said...

American born chinese seems a very interesting read after the spate of movies on ABCD (American Born Confused Indians)

Anonymous said...

Where are you GOG?