Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit is the Middle Grade debut of one of my favorite authors, Jesse Q. Sutanto.
Recently, after finishing Sutanto’s latest release, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, I wasn’t quite ready to part from her writing.
I’ve had Theo Tan on my radar for a while, and with the second book in the series, Theo Tan and the Iron Fan releasing at the end of May, I figured now was the perfect time to pick it up.
This story follows, you guessed it, Theo Tan, an average Chinese-American boy just doing his thing, playing video games and trying to fly under the radar. So far, he thinks he is doing pretty well in that regard.
When his older brother, Jamie, is killed in an accident though, everything abruptly changes for Theo. Not only is the startling loss of his brother devastating, Theo has also inherited Jamie’s fox spirit, Kai.
Prior to this time, Kai and Theo didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye. There’s no love lost between the two. Kai is snarkier than ever now, grieving the loss of Jamie with every fiber of their being.
The two are forced to let bygones be bygones, however, after discovering a coded message from Jamie that seems to indicate something was awry at Jamie’s internship with Reapling Corporation.
Obviously, I am cutting some corners here, but basically this chain of events leads Theo and Kai on a mystery-filled adventure at a highly-competitive summer camp program, ‘Know Your Roots’, run by the Corporation.
Know Your Roots is a program that celebrates Chinese and Indian cultures and is designed to help connect students with their heritage. Since Theo has been actively trying to ignore the Chinese part of his heritage his whole life, he is a bit behind the learning curve when he enters.
Together Theo and Kai think if they are at the camp, undercover of course, they will be able to get to the bottom of the mystery Jamie wanted them to solve. Are they right, or will they crash and burn in an epic way?
I had a lot of fun listening to this audio. The narration was excellent and I had no problem getting swept away with Theo and Kai.
You did get chapters from both of their perspectives and it was so funny, especially in the beginning, because neither one of them likes the other, so they definitely spill some tea. Over time, it was nice to see their relationship grow.
With Jamie being gone, and them being forced together, they were finally able to come to some mutual respect and understanding.
I definitely felt Sutanto’s sense of humor in this one, which is one of my favorite aspects of her writing. Particularly with Kai’s character. Kai is super snarky, smart and laugh out loud funny.
I enjoyed the setting of the Know Your Roots program. It did have a bit of that competitive feel that I like. I also liked that Kai and Theo had a mystery they were trying to solve.
The highlight of this for me though was the growth displayed in Theo’s characters. He really goes on quite the journey mentally and emotionally.
His self esteem grows a lot, which was the most satisfying for me. To see him push past the shadow of his brother’s legacy, who he saw as the golden child who he could never live up to.
Also, watching Theo learn about, come to appreciate and ultimately embrace his Chinese heritage was a really important message for a Middle Grade story, IMO. I think Sutanto excelled with that.
Overall, I had a great time reading this. It was action-packed, cute and funny as heck. I loved Theo and Kai so much and can’t wait to continue on with their adventures.
This left off in a fantastic spot, leaving plenty to explore in the next installment. You better believe I will be picking it up as soon as possible!!