Review: James Gong: The Big Hit
This is so not my genre but the eye-snagging cover and jazzy back cover blurb hooked me as solidly as a jumping spinning side kick so I found myself spending some unexpected quality time with James Gong, Paul Collin's latest middle grade fiction offering.
It does not take long to settle into James Gong's high energy world. Edgy narrative and vibrant characters are driven by a seemingly implausible story line that evolves into a curiously involved teen tale.
James Gong is a teen on the precipice of stardom. He's OK at school, has a sister whose bestie seems bent on giving him nosebleeds, and two best mates, Jay and Ethan, who keep his fourteen-year-old world balanced. He is also pretty hot at taekwondo despite a slightly goofy veneer and shaved head.
James' prowess on the training floor means he is just a few poomse routines away from earning his black belt, but his reckless and uncontrolled rouge behaviour is not enough to convince Mr Choi, his martial arts instructor, that James has what it takes to be a black belt. Fortunately for James, roving talent scout Marcie thinks otherwise and before he can say cho dan bo, James lands the leading role in what he believes is going to be the next blockbuster movie.
The next few weeks are spent shooting scenes for a high octane madcap movie mashup of Star Wars meets Shakespeare, Bruce Lee Sci Fi style. Red flags should have started flapping then but for James showcasing his martial arts skill with his supreme acting ability is nirvana and he believes everyone relishes basking in the glow of his glory. If only he could convince those closest to him like: Jay who doesn't seem to share his enthusiasm; Amber whose derision flays him raw every time they meet and Caitlin his reclusive, tree-hugging sister, that he is the real deal. But as premier night draws closer, James discovers Kissing Scenes (in capitals) are nowhere near as shocking as Ham Solo's final cut.
Will James survive movie-mega stardom providing he makes it out of the cinema in one piece? Or is he destined to be the most famous black belt fighter that never was? The Big Hit thumps with action and humour and just enough heart to give it read-again credibility, but it might never translate to the big screen, at least I don't recommend they do anything to ruin the jaw dropping conclusion.
James Gong may be misguided and over-zealous at times but he is never mean which helps The Big Hit hit all the marks for those after a fast paced, character driven, high on action and entertainment read.
Title: James Gong: The Big Hit
Author: Paul Collins
Publisher: Hybrid Publishers, $16.99
Publication Date: June 2020
For ages: 10 – 14
Type: Middle Grade Fiction
Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Booktopia, Hybrid Publishers, Ford Street Publishing
Check out the action packed book trailer for James Gong: The Big Hit while you're waiting for your copy to arrive!