In addition to being extremely strict, Melony Yoshima’s immigrant parents are overly protective. They say they want to keep her safe from the Amanjaku, an evil spirit that preys on children. Melony thinks that is just an old Japanese folktale and doesn’t believe them. Frustrated with her boring and overly controlled life, Melony makes a wish on her twelfth birthday for excitement, adventure, and freedom. She also wants a smart phone, which is just as unlikely.
Not long after, Melony is home alone when a package comes to the door addressed to her. She opens it to find a strange looking creature inside. It’s the Amanjaku, but it doesn’t seem evil at all. It has come to make Melony’s wish come true. Then it shape-shifts into her new friend Chloë and together they do things that her parents wouldn’t normally allow and Melony loves feeling rebellious.
Over the next few weeks, the Amanjaku occasionally appears to Melony as Chloë. Each time, it convinces Melony to do things which she knows isn’t right. Finally, Melony realizes that she shouldn’t have trusted evil spirit, but it might be too late. She’s on the brink of losing everyone she loves.
Waka T. Brown’s contemporary re-imagining of the Japanese folktale “The Melon Princess and the Amanjaku” grabbed me from the start. I sympathized with Melony’s longing to be like everyone else and her struggle to be American at school, but Japanese at home. This “be careful what you wish for” story demonstrated how easy it is to give into temptation and how terrible the consequences can be. I highly recommend it for middle school students. This releases July 18th, but you can pre-order now.