The Very Unfortunate Wish of Melony Yoshimura

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jul. 2023. 272p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063230767.
Gr 4 Up–Twelve-year old Melony Yoshimura is tired of being limited by her strict, overprotective Japanese parents. She has no close friends, uncool clothes, and no cell phone, unlike her American classmates. Her loneliness abates when new girl Chloë shows up and wins over Melony’s parents with her good manners and Japanese last name. For her 12th birthday, Melony wishes for freedom, and says she’d sacrifice anything to get it. Then, the arrival of a mysterious package brings an Amanjaku (a shape-shifting, malevolent spirit) into her home; it persuades Melony to keep its presence a secret, and masquerades as New Chloë when Real Chloë isn’t around. Melony gets pulled into a spiral of increasingly bad decisions—vandalism, deceit, and keeping a stolen phone—that culminate into the Amanjaku stealing her body and transforming her into an owl. Melony’s sense of self ebbs away, until she only knows herself as Owl, and it takes an unexpected figure from her parents’ past to help her reclaim herself, make amends, and defeat the Amanjaku. Melony’s first-person narration is eminently readable; tweens will chuckle at her wry observations and sympathize with her culture clashes with parents. Brown builds uneasy tension as Melony is the last to understand the cost of her newfound freedom and selfishness. The resolution is ambiguous yet positive, and an author’s note discusses the original folktale on which the novel is based.
VERDICT An engaging tale of morality, friendship, and identity that blends relatable tween angst with deliciously creepy Japanese folklore. Highly recommended for middle grade collections.

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