Read my full review below the publisher's blurb.
From the Publisher:
In this magical and chilling Coraline-esque retelling of the Japanese folktale “The Melon Princess and the Amanjaku," one girl must save herself—and her loved ones—from a deceitful demon she befriended.
Melony Yoshimura’s parents have always been overprotective. They say it’s because a demonic spirit called the Amanjaku once preyed upon kids back in Japan, but Melony suspects it’s just a cautionary tale to keep her in line. So on her twelfth birthday, Melony takes a chance and wishes for the freedom and adventure her parents seem determined to keep her from.
As if conjured by her wish, the Amanjaku appears. At first, Melony is wary. If this creature is real, are the stories about its destructive ways also real In no time, however, the Amanjaku woos Melony with its ability to shape-shift, grant wishes, and understand her desire for independence. But what Melony doesn’t realize is that the Amanjaku’s friendship has sinister consequences, and she quickly finds every aspect of her life controlled by the demon’s trickery—including herself.
Melony is determined to set things right, but will she be able to before the Amanjaku turns her life, her family, and her community upside down
Loved this book 5/5
This is my first contact with this author's work and I've become a fan. I grew up immersed in Japanese culture, sports (Kendo), and pop-culture, and anime, and I have a passion for their folklore and legends, but I'm not Japanese. I just always felt drawn to it. I can never refuse a good novel focused on these elements.
This is a very well-written story as a modern retelling (or inspired) by an old Japanese folktale “The Melon Princess and the Amanjaku" about an oni (demon) who grants wishes in a wicked way, leading people astray but also can be a shapeshifter taking their place.
Told in the first person, we follow Melony who is a first-generation American-Japanese 12-year-old child who is struggling to belong, caught between two different cultures. She is ashamed of her parents' heritage and overprotective rules. She even refuses to use her real name (Uriko) because she wants to fit in the "American" standards and be accepted by her peers instead of being bullied and made fun of. Although many kids (Japanese or not) who are bullies or made fun of their names (me included) will relate to her tribulations. This brought me close to Melony.
On top of this, her parents are overprotective and have too many rules constantly comparing American life/routines/what is acceptable or not to Japanese life. Melony's anger, frustration, and feeling suffocated by her parents leads her to make a birthday wish inviting an evil spirit without realizing it.
In school, there is a new girl and this gives Melony an opportunity for new friendships, with relatable interests and their background culture. Chloë is also from a Japanese family but being another generation this family is more integrated and Americanized.
The book has the perfect progression from self-centered Melony to the community. We start with her reactions to injustices until she hits the bottom. Bad things happen like lying, hiding, and stealing to achieve goals... Then the story becomes more and we even get insight into other characters' lives (situations) and understand better their action.
I like the end, I wasn't expecting the small twist that suddenly makes everything worse and tense and we're rooting for Melony in this "one last chance race" against time to make it all right again, not just for her but for the entire community.
Close to my heart because...There is something the author points out in her notes that is very important. We are not always the victim (the princess of the folktale) influenced by the "evil spirit" who makes us do our worst, we are also that "one" who shapeshifts to fit, to please, and be accepted. I relate to Melony a lot when I change myself to belong to my new culture, but I also relate a lot to her parents constantly making comparisons In my country we didn't (...) in my country we used to..." When in Rome be Romans right? And sometimes that tires and overwhelmed.
I think the author showed that very well with Melony's actions and redemption.
Themes such as Asian family culture in conflict with American culture, helicopter parents, anger, frustration, sense of being wronged, outgrowing selfishness, recognizing good from bad, regret, learning to see that we're part of different community cores (such as family, friendship, school, neighborhood...), facing fears, accepting responsibility, making new friends with relatable interests, respecting friendships, giving others a chance, being honest with others, express feelings but learning to be reasonable by communicating well.
Thank you for the opportunity to read this ARC NetGalley and Publisher. My opinions are my own and are honest.