Ratings: ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ (4/5)
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
This review is a little difficult for me to write, because Chewy Noh and The Fall of the Mu-dang is one of those books you have a love/hate relationship with. Obviously, I am leaning towards love (hence the four coffee cups) and would recommend this book to anyone and everyone regardless of age. If you are looking for a light, humorous read that will bring out the inner child in you, this is the book to read.
The Writing: If I had to compare Tim Learn’s writing style I’d compare it with that of R. L. Stine—and as someone who is a huge fan of Mr. Stine that is a huge compliment coming from me. I think the biggest problem with books in this genre is finding a way to narrate the story in a light-hearted but engaging manner, and Tim Learn most certainly knows how to do that. Even though the entire story was told in a simple, easy-to-understand way which is perfect for kids, the writer also draws out the suspense after each chapter, which makes this book entertaining to adults as well.
The only problem I had with the writing and the narrating is that at times the story fell flat and was somewhat slow-paced. I although I enjoyed this book till the very last page, I would have loved it even more if the events had developed faster. The occasional switching back and forth between multiple perspectives and timelines honestly did not bother me, but I think that younger readers would prefer it more if the different timelines and POVs were mentioned at the beginning of every chapter. I know this because it was the only complaint my 13-year-old sister had when she read this book, and she has read many books that have multiple POVs. Other than that, this book was very well written, earning two coffee-cups from me.
The Characters: Our MC, Chewy, or Hee-Chu (as he is called by his family) is a character that many children would be able to relate with. He starts out as a less than ordinary kid whose biggest problem is trying to get by every class without getting a F. So when a mu-dang—a Korean, psychic woman with incredible powers—grants him a wish, of course he wishes for the power to pass any and every kind of tests. Maybe it’s just me wanting to be insightful, but I thought this was a very clever way of showing the effects a very competitive school environment has on children. However, that was just a small part of the main plot. Most of the book shows how Chewy misuses his gift and slowly learns overtime how to use his powers for a better purpose. And although Chewy himself is incredibly loveable and adorable, his character didn’t see much development throughout the whole book, even though that was exactly what the book was supposed to be about: learning to take on responsibility for your choices and actions. While I loved how childlike, innocent and carefree Chewy was, I would have liked it better if he actually learned something from his mishaps.
There is a great cast of supporting characters in this book, especially the children, and they all have very important roles in helping the story progress. First we have Clint, who represents the “nobodies” of the student body—he is the kid who is seen by everyone but is never heard. Then we have the Big Bad Bully, Kent, who like all bullies tortures other kids simply because he himself is lacking something and is incredibly angry about what he is missing. We have a perky but volatile, popularity-obsessed girl who is always looking for the chance to cook up drama and we have the quiet, shy but incredibly wise, introvert girl who is always trying to fade into the background. I loved how the writer used all of these different characters to portray all kinds of school-going kids. We don’t simply have just one main character and his sidekick in this book, we see how different students from different walks of life and with different personalities interact with the people around them, especially with their peers. It was really interesting to see how children develop into the roles that they play at school, and the reasons behind why they do it too.
However, all of these different personalities end up a creating a somewhat overly dramatic atmosphere, and although the writing was convincing enough for most parts, at certain points it was hard to believe that a bunch of little kids would be so political.
Another thing that disappointed me about the characters was how underdeveloped the adults were in this book. They all could have been cardboard cutouts or puppets for all I knew, and Chewy’s mother in particular needed to be more sensible. Admittedly she plays a very small role in this book, so I can overlook this particular flaw, but I would have liked to see her show a little more than a mild interest in her only child’s life.
The Plot: Since this is the first book in the series, I really don’t have too much to say about the plot. The first book is basically all about Chewy learning what to do with his gift…and that’s about it. The entire story is built upon the concept that having superpowers means you have a responsibility to help those around you, and that’s what the story mainly focuses on. A little bit about Korean mythology is revealed here, but it seemed more as a foreshadowing of what to expect in the second book in the series rather than an integral part of the plot of the first book. So to tell you the truth, there is no complex plot in the first book, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you think about the audience this book is targeted for.
The Ending: I am honestly happy with the way this book ended. The last part of this book was incredibly exciting, and it ended with no loose threads or plot holes. I was particularly happy that this book did not have any cliffhangers—it didn’t need to. I loved this book enough to want to read the second book anyway.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Although it is listed as YA, I think it belongs in the MG Fantasy/Humor genre. Regardless, it is a book that anyone of any age will enjoy.