Melony Yoshimura’s parents have always been overprotective. They say it’s because a demonic spirit called the Amanjaku once preyed upon kids back in Japan, but Melony suspects it’s just a cautionary tale to keep her in line. So on her twelfth birthday, Melony takes a chance and wishes for the freedom and adventure her parents seem determined to keep her from.
As if conjured by her wish, the Amanjaku appears. At first, Melony is wary. If this creature is real, are the stories about its destructive ways also real? In no time, however, the Amanjaku woos Melony with its ability to shape-shift, grant wishes, and understand her desire for independence. But Melony doesn’t realize that the Amanjaku’s friendship has sinister consequences, and she quickly finds every aspect of her life controlled by the demon’s trickery—including herself.
Melony is determined to set things right, but will she be able to before the Amanjaku turns her life, family, and community upside down?
I love that this story is a retelling of the Japanese folktale “The Melon Princess and the Amanjaku.” You can read about the version of this folktale that the author grew up with and other versions of the story in the Author’s Note. More books need to be retellings of lesser-known folktales. The world doesn’t need more versions of Cinderella.
With so many books about parents who are either dead or not involved in the story whatsoever, it’s refreshing to see two parents who actually care about their kids. Melony’s parents are overprotective, not letting her ride the bus or attend sleepovers, but nothing too extreme. They are a bit high-strung and restrictive, but that’s to be expected when you move to a different country. Everything is new and scary. Although her parents saying she can’t do something because ‘they don’t do that in Japan’ is a pretty flimsy excuse.
While I understand why her parents are overprotective, I also appreciate Melony’s need for freedom. Melony is at that age where she wants more independence, but her parents are reluctant to give it to her, which can be frustrating. The fact is that the more you try to restrict your children, the more likely they are to break the rules the first chance they get. I don’t condone all of Melony’s actions, but I’ll give her a pass on eating junk food when her parents aren’t home. That’s pretty much the first thing a kid does when left home alone.
I listened to the audiobook, so I heard how all the Japanese words were pronounced. I didn’t understand what they meant, nor could I pronounce them myself, but I enjoyed hearing them. Is it just me, or do people sound like they are talking extra fast when speaking a language you don’t know?
Here are a few examples of Japanese words and English translations:
Uriko, pronounced “oo-ree-ko,” Melony’s Japanese name
Otanjoubi omedetou!: Happy Birthday
Hajimemashite: Nice to meet you.
The beginning is a bit slow, and the ending is kinda confusing. All in all, this was a fantastic eerie read that I recommend to fans of Coraline (the movie, not the book).