Title: The Monster on the Road Is Me
Author: J.P. Romney
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!
Guys this book was FANTASTIC. It’s on my list of “authentic books set in Japan”. (For those of you just tuning in, I lived in Japan for seven years.) The author DID live in Japan, so I went into this with high hopes. At first I thought it was going to fall prey to the “I know a lot about Japan let me show off my superior knowledge and Japanese skills” but that soon fell to the wayside. There IS a lot of Japanese in this that doesn’t have direct translation nor does this book have a glossary, and technically all of the characters are speaking Japanese so the random Japanese words really didn’t need to be there IMO, but generally you could get a sense of what the word meant from the way it was used and usually a few paragraph’s later the Japanese word was subbed out for it’s English translation. That was really my only issue with this book and the Japan aspect of it.
The rest is awesome. It’s set in a small village in the Japanese countryside. Our main character is a dorky teen boy who is narcoleptic and falls asleep when he gets stressed out. He has to wear a dorky looking helmet (not all of the time, but often enough) and he’s just kinda socially awkward. His parents are really old and they live on a shitake mushroom farm. Koda, while not being super popular, is hilarious. I loved his voice SO MUCH. This book cracked me up with Koda’s sarcasm and wit.
In this book Koda’s classmates start to kill themselves and they leave behind very weird things in the wake of their suicides. Koda discovers that when he touches something related to the student that died he can actually see what they went through in their last moments… and soon after discovering this a foxy older girl shows up and starts to boss Koda around. He dorkily falls for her and the banter between the two of them is so cute and humorous. The girl, Moya, explains to Koda that there’s something sinister happening in the village and that there are forces out there willing to kill him.
This book takes Japanese culture, folklore, and modernity for a spin and meshes them together in such a fun way. I really enjoyed Romney’s writing and was very happy to see such a well done Japan book in YA. I REALLY hope this book gets a lot more attention.