Romney, J.P. The Monster on the Road is Me. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. Print.
Koda Okita is a high school student in Japan. He has narcolepsy and has to wear a huge helmet in case the falls asleep and hits his head, which does not help with his popularity issues. But student at the high school start to die under mysterious circumstances, including the girl Kida is in love with. He begins to believe that there is more to the deaths than the authorities believe, and it may include an ancient demon.
I had never heard of this book before I saw it while browsing through Barnes and Noble recently. Just another reason to love brick and mortar bookstores. Up to this point, I had only read one book set in Japan, another young adult book called Ink. I think both of these books did a very good job of describing Japanese culture in an interesting way without feeling like they are giving too much information at once.
In addition to the Japanese culture, I also enjoyed learning about Japanese folklore. Ancient Japanese myths played a very big part in the story, and I love when mythology of any sort is incorporated into books. The author, while American, taught in Japan for a while and it is obvious that he experienced the country firsthand and didn’t just do some research online. The fact that it was set in a small town in the country and not somewhere like Tokyo made it seem more authentic.
On top of all of this culture, Koda has narcolepsy, which is something I’ve never read about in a young adult book before, or any book, for that matter. It didn’t play an enormous part in the story, but Romney made the depiction quite humorous. Koda himself had a very fun and sarcastic personality. The other characters were just as interesting as Koda, particularly Yori, who used to be a bus driver but is now an accountant who has a passion for cosplay.
I think there are elements that would definitely work well in schools. I can’t remember learning much about Asia in school, whether it was through literature or even history class. We learn so much about Europe and Africa; why don’t we learn more about Japan? They have a very rich history that students would find interesting. I think this book would do a good job of introducing them to modern-day Japanese culture and just a bit of history.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable and informative book, and I really hope it becomes more popular.