There was a time in my life where I positively devoured crime books. I read Patricia Cornwell novels with a sort of manic fervor and enjoyed being scared and sleepless. I read a few other books of that genre by different authors, but eventually the chewing gum lost its flavor and the stories felt trite and dull. I skipped out of the world of crime novels before I had ever had a chance to sit down with a James Patterson read.
Last year when one of Patterson’s much admired book series became an actual television series I decided to give it a chance. I instantly became sucked into the world of Women’s Murder Club. I loved that it was a crime show second and a relationship show first. I loved that it had realistic characters that were deliciously flawed and still striving and yearning for their own version of perfect.
When I heard that Patterson along with co-writer Michael Ledwidge had decided to begin a new book series geared at younger readers, and specifically boys, I was excited. I often feel a pang of sadness when I meet someone and find out that they weren’t big readers at a younger age. Books are actually something that I can’t imagine my childhood without. Seriously- when I think back to family meals around the dining table I always recall that everyone had a book with them. Sure we conversed and debated and laughed, but if it was just a lazy day Saturday lunch you didn’t show up without a dog eared book to get lost in as you munched on your peanut butter and banana sandwich.
That an author would specifically set out to hook a new generation, a generation that has only known a world with widely available electronics and hundreds of television channels, back into reading is extremely commendable. It is an exceptionally hard task to pull a kid away from a video game and then show him that you can be just as entertained and engaged in a book.
As I read The Dangerous Days of Daniel X I tried to imagine that I was a young boy with a full schedule of extracurricular activities and a video game consul just waiting for my attention. I imagined that I was not big on reading “for fun” or someone that felt books would make me feel stupid.
The novel begins: “If this were a movie instead of real life, this would be the part where in a strange, ominous voice I’d say, “Take me to your leader!” Daniel informs us that our planet is in danger and that disgusting and ruthless aliens are here and set to destroy life as we know it. We then jump to the beginning of Daniel’s life and learn that he is not your average little boy. That he is, in fact, extremely unique and special. That he alone will save us. It is, I will admit, a very captivating way to begin.
The story revolves around Daniel X and his other-worldly abilities. It reveals the character to be an alien hunter with a massive list of aliens he must seek and destroy. It’s also is a story of secret identities as Daniel struggles to be just a regular boy with a regular family. There is a good deal of violence that some younger readers might make squeamish or find nightmare inducing, but Daniel is a hero that makes us confident that good will ultimately conquer evil.
One of the first things that you will notice about this book, and I do believe it was a specific choice of the authors, is that each chapter is only 2-3 pages long. So in a book with 238 pages you will encounter 92 chapters. Personally I found this a bit tedious, but I have to remind myself that I am not exactly who this book is for. I am the kind of gal that could sit down and devour a good book cover to cover in one afternoon.
I have to wonder if the inclusion of so many chapters is some sort of subliminal reward system. I remember being younger and feeling a certain sense of accomplishment upon completing or reaching a certain chapter in a book. Heck, I remember the first book I ever read with actual chapters and how insanely grown up it made me feel. So for the general reader (that would be you and me) so many new chapters might seem annoying, but for a new reader it could be a marker of achievement.
The book is very inventive and clever with current inclusions of zesty pop culture but sometimes it read a little forced. Referencing Shia La Beouf gets you points with the tweens, but it felt a bit like a Grandparent talking about an ipod. Older readers will realize that the authors are far more comfortable making references to original episodes of Stark Trek or vintage zombie movies.
This book would be a great read for someone that is just getting turned on by reading. I think young boys as well as girls would be able to follow the story and get lost in the fantastical world of Daniel X. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than 8 without supervision. There are some very graphic depictions of violence and death, including family members.
Website for The Dangerous Days of Daniel X
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So let’s talk about the books we read in our childhood. What was the first book you read as a young adult that made you feel accomplished? What books from your childhood do you still have on your bookshelf?