No More Dragons
by Rie Charles Napoleon, 2010
$9.95, 128 pp, ages 11+
In the style of popular young adult fiction, Rie Charles’ debut novel is epistolary—a collection of letters written by the main character. This is a powerful story sure to catch the attention of any teen reader and hold it through to the end. The opening letters introduce Alex and his family—his angry father, his subservient mother, his 5-year-old brother struggling with cancer, his 8-year-old “perfect” yet annoying sister and the family dog. While Alex shares a lot about his family, he doesn’t say much about Graham, the recipient of the letters. We are enticed to learn how Alex knows him, why they never meet in person, why Graham doesn’t (can’t or won’t) write back, and why Alex continues to write nonetheless.
Similar in theme to Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick or in format to Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks, the novel captures the reader from the first: “Dear Graham, I’m writing because it’s starting to get to me. Plus I need to tell someone.” And tell, he does. Through 47 short letters, the reader follows Alex, a 13-year-old boy, as he finds himself, his place in his family, his grade 8 class, and the world. At first, Alex doesn’t like who he is or who people think he is—his letters to his friend Graham record his struggles and achievements as he comes to self-realization over a 9 month period. Alex’s challenges include everyday teenage struggles and some very big life issues—bullying; self-concept, -confidence, and -worth; family dynamics; cancer; an abusive father; and building friendships—yet Alex’s journey provides manageable solutions and subtle guidance to teens who may be searching for some answers of their own. This is an excellent short novel for teens and tweens.
Review by Amanda Parker.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Mar/Apr 2011 issue.