by Tom Angleberger
Amulet Books, 2011.
159 pages, hardcover.
Requested this from the Library. And would I have elbowed a middle-schooler to get this one off the “Lucky Day” Shelf first? Yes. Yes, I would have. But I didn’t have to. There was one on the Hold shelf waiting just for me.
It is a dark time at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School. After suffering several Origami Yoda-related humiliations, Harvey manages to get Dwight suspended from school for being a “troublemaker.” Origami Yoda pleads with Tommy and Kellen to save Dwight by making a new case file—one that will show how Dwights presence benefits McQuarrie. With the help of their friends, Tommy and Kellen record cases such as “Origami Yoda and the Pre-eaten Wiener,” “Origami Yoda and the Exploding Pizza Bagels,” and “Origami Yoda and Wonderland: The Musical.” But Harvey and his Darth Paper puppet have a secret plan that could make Dwights suspension permanent . . .
With his proven knack for humorously exploring the intrigues, fads, and dramas of middle school, Tom Angleberger has crafted a worthy sequel to his breakout bestseller.~Publisher’s Comments
It is true that Tom Angleberger has a “proven knack for humorously exploring the intrigues, fads, and dramas of middle school.” In this wonderful sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back features girlfriend angst, dating, video game criticism, electives, fund-raising, that annoying kid, body odor, and cafeteria food. It addresses that feeling of helplessness in an environment that seems only to take things away. Without the provision of a platform for protest, solutions (options), or compromise, Tommy and others find a voice and a way in and around the system. Darth Paper does this with a lot of humor, of course.
Like the Origami Yoda, Darth Paper is told via an opening and closing narratives with stories (“cases”) sandwiched in between. Where the first book would explore the authenticity of Dwight’s claims that Origami Yoda is for real, this case file sets out to argue for the strange paper-folding Dwight’s place at McQuarrie Middle School. Again there are stories by various narrators whom Angleberger captures and maintains consistency with enviable ease. Kellen provides the drawings, and even Harvey manages to add his two cents to every entry. The book, too, would illustrate the value even the annoying jerks might have.
And of course, there is the return of Star Wars references and themes. While I don’t think you can enjoy book one without having seen any of the Star Wars films/stories, pop culture being what it is, I think fans will find even greater wit and charm in Darth Paper, especially the dark origami finger puppets quotes.
Origami Yoda provides oft cryptic answers to the most pressing questions, and the way the said answers play out create wonderful intrigue, but also space for creative problem-solving. This should never be phrased this way when handing this book to a middle-schooler. Angleberger has brilliantly realized a venue. His books are a place for readers to commiserate, laugh, and remember their own potential without making the book into another steeply dramatic
exploratory scenario realist fiction.
I like Angleberger’s solutions, some yet open-ended, others in the form of a nicely placed resurrection of old pencil war games, I mean, in the form of seeking out a nice teacher (because they do exist) for help finding solutions to your problems. Primarily it is the book’s playful yet serious engagement in conversations intelligent and passionate young people are having; ones they should have some encouragement vocalizing to the powers that be. If anything, it is good practice for all the other authoritative institutions they will grow up to encounter. Am I hinting at some healthy subversive tone in Darth Paper? Yes. Jimmy Gownley’s wondermous series Amelia Rules! was happily recalled. I would give these as a boxed set.
And speaking of comics (long or otherwise), Tommy gifts his love interest with Robot Dreams by Sara Varon. You could read the placement into the story, but I was just giddy to see its mention. Just go ahead and hand your son or daughter Robot Dreams when you give them Darth Paper Strikes Back. If either you and/or the middle-school aged person in your life haven’t even read The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, then I suggest you remedy this immediately. Tom Angleberger and his novels really are just too fantastic to miss.
My review of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.
My review of Robot Dreams.