(Taking Katherine Rundell’s advice to heart.)
DJ Kim is an ordinary boy living in a small, boring town where nothing ever happens. His family is full of overachievers, but he spends his days doing nothing much of note, especially ever since his best friend, Gina, moved away some years ago. His dull days come to an end, however, after Hilo — a mysterious and powerful boy — falls from the sky, crash landing right into DJ’s life. Hilo doesn’t remember much from his life prior to the fall, but when strange, ominous things start happening around the sleepy little town, memories resurface, shedding light on his past and revealing his ultimate purpose.
I’ve heard a lot of things about this series over the years, and while the premise sounded interesting, it also just didn’t seem to be My Thing, you know? But then the first book showed up on Amazon’s daily Kindle deals for only a couple of bucks and, I thought, why not? Might as well check it out.
I’m really glad I did. This book is just fun. It’s clever and charming and so full of heart. The characters likeable and refreshingly diverse. DJ, as a quiet and reserved kid of color was immediately relatable to me, and I just wanted to see him happy. Gina is just cool and charismatic. And Hilo is the quirky, kinetic hero, in the same vein as Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is a trope that is very hit-or-miss for me, but Winick manages to strike a nice balance between the earnest and the playful.
But this is still such a playful story. And the whimsical tone is carried over into the art style as well, which, to my eyes at least, is a curious mix between Calvin and Hobbes and Codename: Kids Next Door. It works for me.
In the end, I think I enjoyed this graphic novel so much because it simply reminded me of the Saturday morning cartoons of my childhood (albeit with an updated, Pixar-like sensitivity and flair). It made me feel like a kid again, in the best possible, way. A light, breezy read, but after a week of somewhat intense personal stuff, it’s also exactly what I needed. (I’ve also been reading Daisy Jones and the Six, an emotionally draining book if there ever was one, so this provided a nice respite from that as well.)