**4.5-stars rounded up**
Holy smokes!!! That was a debut?
Y’all, Tristan Strong is a hella ambitious first novel that felt like an entire world being built in front of your eyes. I am really dang impressed with this!
Okay, now with the initial swooning out of the way, let’s get into it.
Tristan Strong is a 7th grader who has had a tough time of late. After losing his best friend, Eddie, in a horrific bus crash, Tristan is struggling with his grief and feels like no one understands him.
His parents decide to send him to Alabama for a month with his grandparents to help with his recovery.
Yeah, he’s not super crazy about the idea either. Nonetheless, he heads off with them with only his best friend’s journal to truly remind him of home.
On his first night there, the most bizarre thing happens. Some sort of little doll baby thing steals Eddie’s journal from him and takes off.
Tristan gives chase. It’s all he has left of Eddie. He needs that thing back. He follows the doll baby into some creepy woods and around the mysterious bottle tree.
There as he is wrestling to retrieve the journal, he inadvertently punches a hole in the fabric of the universe, opening up a hole to another world, named MidPass.
This is where things get crazy. I can’t even go on to describe all that happens next, you will just have to read for yourself. This story is full of action, African folklore, mythology, African-American history, the power of words, stories coming to life and a boy finding the hero within himself.
I was so impressed with the level of Mbalia’s writing. So detailed, so funny, so engaging. All of the things. You may wonder why I decided to give this 4.5-stars versus a full 5 and really it boils down to the scope.
I think the book was a little long for my taste. I sort of feel like this story could have been broken down into two books. There were moments too, that there was so much going on, I felt a little confused.
However, with that being said, that is such a minor thing and totally personal preference. This is such a fantastic, important story. I urge everyone to pick it up!
Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I greatly appreciate it. Kwame Mbalia is a gift to the world and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!