In The Monster on the Road is Me by JP Romney, figures from Japanese mythology complicate the life of Koda Okita, a social misfit in a modern, ordinary (just read the sign), quiet Japanese mountain town. But when several of his classmates commit suicide for no apparent reason, Koda begins to question the official explanations, turning up an ancient mystery with the help of an even more mysterious classmate.
Note: I received an advanced copy of THE MONSTER ON THE ROAD IS ME from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
The Monster on the Road is Me by J. P. Romney
Published by Farrar, Giroux, Strauss on August 30, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 336 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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It starts with the crows. When you see them, you know he's found you.
Koda Okita is a high school student in modern-day Japan who isn't very popular. He suffers from narcolepsy and has to wear a watermelon-sized helmet to protect his head in case he falls. But Koda couldn't care less about his low social standing. He is content with taking long bike rides and hanging out in the convenience store parking lot with his school-dropout friend, Haru.
But when a rash of puzzling deaths sweeps his school, Koda discovers that his narcoleptic naps allow him to steal the thoughts of nearby supernatural beings. He learns that his small town is under threat from a ruthless mountain demon that is hell-bent on vengeance. With the help of a mysterious - and not to mention very cute classmate - Koda must find a way to take down this demon. But his unstable and overwhelming new abilities seem to have a mind of their own.
- The hero of our story, Koda, is a wise-cracking, self-deprecating teenager who does not fit the Western stereotype of the hard-working, grade-obsessive salary-man-in-training. He doesn’t work hard, and he doesn’t study. Mostly, he kills time with friends who are as socially awkward as he is. He is no one’s image of a hero, but when his mysterious classmate Moya seeks his help in putting an end to the town’s curse, he digs in and does his best, discovering that his apparent illness is the inconvenient side-effect of his ability to access memories …. memories that hold the clues necessary to free the town. Our author, Romney, makes Koda a kid with whom we all can identify …. the last one chosen as a partner in any school endeavor from group projects to sports …. but who is also so fiercely loyal to his few friends that he finds the courage to face up to monsters and ancient demons.
- The romance between Moya and Koda is predictably and charmingly awkward.
- Fans of Japanese mythology and current Japanese culture will find a wealth of references scattered throughout the book. Ancient and modern walk comfortably side-by-side in this novel, giving the American reader a sense of the richness of this culture that rarely shines through in TV and movies.
- I never expected to understand most of the references to modern Japanese pop culture, especially anime, and the fact that these went over my head didn’t detract from enjoying the novel. However, the frequent use of Japanese phrases, without translation or glossary, was a bit frustrating. I often got the feeling that I was missing something important in the longer phrases, but I didn’t want to break off reading in order to hunt for a translation on the Internet.
On the whole, this is a quirky and unique novel for teenagers, especially those who are interested in anime, Japanese mythology, or Japanese culture.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
THE MONSTER ON THE ROAD IS ME by J.P. ROMNEY
© 2016, Barbara. All rights reserved.