Monday, August 11, 2008

Dangerous Days, indeed.

Daniel has no last name. He has no family, either; he creates his own family and friends with his highly developed magical imagination. He has amazing powers, outrageous intelligence, and a mission to avenge his parents' violent deaths.

It's too bad all of this doesn't lead to a better story.

Daniel X is disappointing. James Patterson is a well-known author for adults, a creator of best-selling novels, a regular on Top Ten Lists. What happened here? The dramatic opening sets up the motivation and Daniel's uniqueness, but after that - well, not much. The pacing lacks flow, connections are choppy, the villian was predictable, and frankly, I found it dull.

That's ironic because Patterson's marketing (and oh, he is all about marketing) is based on boys supposedly having very little interest in reading because they find books boring and "can't get into the stories."

Patterson needs to meet some of the boys I've met while teaching fourth through sixth grade. He needs to meet the boy who checked out Eragon from the library - for me! "Mrs. Teacher, you need to read this now because the sequel is coming out soon and it's awesome." How about the boy who kept hiding books in his lap so he could keep reading through math class? No, his subterfuge didn't work. He still had to learn long division, but I let him read as soon as his homework was done. Then there was the boy who was so wrapped up in Robinson Crusoe that he forgot to go to science class. Tell me he wasn't into the story, and I'll pop a quiz on you so fast your head will spin. Would you like to hear about the boys who eagerly read the later books in Laura Ingalls Wilder's collection? They wanted to find out more about Almanzo from Farmer Boy and learn whether his older brother Royal moved west with him.

Patterson suggests something teachers and librarians already know: give them books they'll love.

I suggest: Give them Gary Paulsen. Christopher Paul Curtis. Jerry Spinelli. Betsy Byars. Cornelia Funke. Gordon Korman. Robert Louis Stevenson. C. S. Lewis. Matt Christopher's sports collections, including fiction and biographies. And continue to recommend J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Boys and girls alike lose themselves in the complex and fascinating world of the boy wizard.

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X may attract a few readers who like slimey aliens and big guns and a weak, unstructured story. I don't plan to recommend it.



I received a free copy of this book in order to review it for MotherTalk. I plan to donate it to the middle school library. Despite my dislike for the story, I do not believe in censorship. Some kids will like it; it'll be on the shelf for them.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Liz@thisfullhouse.com said...

Oh, how disappointing - thanks SO much for giving your honest opinion - I also appreciated your disclaimer and it's nice that your donating the book to your library, hoping that someone else will perhaps enjoy it.

8/11/2008 8:04 AM  
Blogger paper napkin said...

A lot of tween fiction is no good. Once I find a good author I hang on to him/her for dear life. Although, the last adult James Patterson I read was no good either.

8/11/2008 9:06 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I gave up on reading James Patterson because I found his plots to be very predictable (after reading about 10 of his books). The characters as well. It was sad. I haven't read Daniel X, but it sounds to me that he's trying to mimic the supernatural, action-avenging fiction of Dean Koontz, who I love. At least Patterson is branching out and trying new things.

Since it was co-written by someone, so maybe Patterson just helped edit it or something.

8/11/2008 10:01 AM  
Blogger Major Bedhead said...

Ha. I read another YA book by Patterson and loathed it. It was very poorly written. Patterson annoys me - he seems to just use proper names in order to make his sentences longer. "Oh, Susan, shall we walk thru the woods, Susan? It's such a lovely day for a walk, Susan." Etc., ad nauseum.


I do think Patterson is mostly crap anyway, but still. This was a whole new level of crap.

8/11/2008 3:57 PM  
Blogger Allena said...

It's funny how tasted are different all over.
the boys you talk about "reading during class" is sooo sweet!
I love reading and hope to instill it in my children.
A children's series I've enjoyed is Artemis Fowel by Eoin Colfer. I found the books on amazon when i'd purchased a HP book. it said if you like harry potter you may like ..... so i checked it out. I just got the newest book but i'm re-reading the series to "refresh" the story.
btw the story isn't really like HP besides the main character being a boy who's 11. everything else is different. if you do happen to read them LMK what you think about them!
woah i'm writting a book! LOL

8/11/2008 4:02 PM  

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