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Sunday 10 May 2020

Review: James Gong: The Big Hit

James is fourteen and has a valued opinion of himself; from the top of his shaven head to the tip of his nose-picking fingers. After four years of taekwondo (Korean karate his mum calls it), he is preparing for his black belt. He is also waiting a month, for his stinky uniform to grow legs and walk to the washing machine.

Because of the last, he is unprepared for the forgotten camera crew that arrives at his class to film a segment for a series. 

His teacher sees him as his best student. The camera focuses on James and his fluid moves.  Jumping spinning side kicks fly. They look fantastic on camera, especially when a well-executed spin drops the giant bully, Brian Tossa. A tiny camera drone captures perfect aerial shots.

This sets James on the road to acting and fame. He embraces what life offers, but some questions persist and need to be answered. His best friends, Ethan and Jay, stand by him regardless of weaknesses that others find repulsive, and strengths which surface like a rising mist.

What are the true credentials of the two women that claim to be film-makers? James can’t find any record of their production company. If they aren’t who they claim, what can they be up to?

Does James really care? After being an unpopular person (even his sister doesn’t like him) he has become a well known actor. Does it matter how he got there? Will Amber, the apple of his eye, see him differently now?

Devious moves are afoot with James the pawn. But Fate will shift and shape things to fit its plan. There are curving paths and lanes James must travel and lessons to be learnt by many. The true nature of those who matter is revealed. Reinforced is the fact that people are more than they seem and frequently, the way we see ourselves, is not how others perceive us and vice-versa.

Sudden awakenings towards the end make everything that was smoky before, clear, in an outrageous novel about personal growth, self worth, friendship and family.

Full of tongue in cheek humour and clever word play, the chapters are crammed with crazy antics, lame excuses, nonsense, grossness and laughs. But it ends as is usual in a Paul Collins novel, with a fantastic and unexpected twist!

Collins is a master of character-driven novels. Proof are his outstanding Harry Kruize, Born to Lose and The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler. He is trained in martial arts and used his knowledge to perfectly shape the reality of James Gong’s life.

Title: James Gong: The Big Hit
Author: Paul Collins
Illustrator: Matthew Lin
Publisher: FORD ST, $16.95
Publication Date: 10 May 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978192573441
For ages: 9 - 13
Type: Middle Grade Fiction