SWNN Review: The Force Awakens Junior Novelization by Michael Kogge

TFA Junior Novel CoverFrom author Michael Kogge, the writer of the Star Wars Rebels series of books, comes the junior novelization of The Force Awakens, which is based on the film’s screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt.  Read on for the full review.


Like many others I’m sure, seeing The Force Awakens on screen was one of the best cinematic experiences of my life.  After my initial overwhelming experience with the film that dished out second by second thrills and some delicious nostalgia, I was excited to take a minute and really digest the events of the film at my own pace through Alan Dean Foster’s adult novelization by Del Rey.  I quickly blew through that one, and after enjoying the many deleted, alternate, and extended scenes that Foster’s fantastic adaptation provided, I was still left wanting more.


Thankfully, Kogge and Lucasfilm Press were there to scratch that itch with the junior novelization of the film.  As with some of the other junior novels in the Star Wars canon, I began reading this book with a lower set of expectations than I had for most of the adult novels.  But after what Greg Rucka and now Michael Kogge have done with these junior novels, my expectations for them are now just as high as the Del Rey books targeted at the adult market.


Michael Kogge

Kogge’s novel, due to its target market of readers age 8-12, is about half the length of Foster’s adaptation and is naturally a much lighter read with less fluff and a more bee line story.  Although it is primarily devoid of the deleted and extended scenes found in Foster’s adaptation – with a few exceptions like the inclusion of the conversation about Vader’s failure between Snoke and Kylo Ren and the speeder chase in the snow at Starkiller Base – the junior novel is very enjoyable for what it is.  The best way to describe the difference between Foster’s and Kogge’s adaptations is to say that when I was reading Foster’s book, I felt like I was reading a book based on a movie (albeit a good one).  When I read Kogge’s junior novel, I felt like I was actually watching the movie, probably due to its fast-paced delivery of the story that mimicked the experience I got from the film.


That description aside, The Force Awakens junior novel turns out to be so much more than a trimmed-down version of the Del Rey novel.  Although there were things that were left out of this book, both from the adult novelization and the film itself to allow for brevity, I found that the clever writing more than made up for its seeming lack of content.  Kogge is able to successfully convey plot and story in a hundred words what Foster did in a thousand.  Some events are even referenced rather than spelled out, and overall I thought Kogge did a great job handling the material and making it accessible to fans of all ages.


I also have no problem handing my seven year old (who is obsessed with reading) this book and letting him go to town.  Although the film’s adult language is very mild, it’s nice to see that Kogge left out every instance of it in his book.  The only remaining line of “PG” dialogue included in the book was even edited to reflect its readership.  Finn’s line after witnessing some fancy flying by Poe on Takodana is translated to “That’s one heckuva pilot!”


Screenshot 88

That being said, the story is in no way stripped of its heavy emotion and weighty scenes that were in the film.  It’s all there.  Han still dies at the hands of his own son just as he did on screen.  I was actually surprised by this scene as Kogge handled it from a different perspective than Foster and was able to convey possibly even more emotion through words than what I felt from actually watching the movie.


Han’s death is told from his own perspective, describing the feeling of the lightsaber burning through his chest and seeing his life flash before his eyes as his lungs falter and his heart stops beating.  His final thoughts were on his princess, his love, and he resolves to forgive his son and prays that in time his son would forgive him as well.  It was a very gripping scene and I was surprised to read such a vivid and weighty description in the book.  It was very well done indeed.


One of the greatest things about this book is how well it tied in to Before the Awakening and the other junior novels in the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens series.  It is certainly the culmination of those stories and was presented as such.  The book begins with a prologue following the opening crawl text, explaining the history of the galaxy, from the fall of the Old Republic to the rise of the Empire and the Galactic Civil War, and then to the rise of the First Order and the formation of the Resistance.  This is very beneficial to younger readers or casual fans who may not be as in the know in regards to the history of the franchise and the political climate of the current era.



From there, the book actually opens with a new scene, unique to this adaptation, with Finn and his squad getting briefed by Phasma before their mission to the Tuanul village on Jakku.  This scene is intended as a tie in to Before the Awakening as it picks up where that book ended.  Readers get a better understanding of Finn’s future rebellion when he asks Captain Phasma about how they are to avoid possible collateral damage in the village.  Her response, “You don’t,” sets the stage for what’s about to go down planetside and gives readers a closer look at Finn’s motivation for abstaining from violence in the village.


Kogge also makes deliberate references to Before the Awakening that were completely absent from the film or Foster’s novel, like mentioning the names of Finn’s squad mates and Phasma being perplexed at his betrayal, given his excellence in training, his psychological normalcy, and his perceived combat readiness.  Finn’s fellow trooper, FN-2003 (a.k.a. “Slip”) was actually the one that died in his arms on Jakku and left the crimson hand print on his helmet.  Also, Rey’s flight simulator, that she built from various salvaged parts and on which she learned to fly, is also mentioned.


Although the book, along with Foster’s novel is considered official canon there are some noteworthy differences between the adaptation and the final film.  Apart from some minor variations in dialogue, there were some pretty big differences as well.  One of the most notable is Rey’s force vision in Maz’s castle on Takodana.  With both the adult novel and the junior novel being based on the original screenplay, Kogge’s interpretation of Rey’s vision is basically the same as Foster’s which varies from the one in the film in some significant ways.


In the book, Rey actually witnesses the duel between Darth Vader and Luke on Bespin and also sees a mysterious young boy who is given no further explanation.  Later in the vision, she also hears a familiar voice that she has heard before in her dreams promising to come back for her.  Along with these additional elements, the scene from the film with a young Rey on Jakku screaming as the ship flies away is absent from the book version.


Finn vs Kylo

Another big difference is how Finn is wounded by Kylo Ren in the duel at Starkiller base.  In the movie, one of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber quillons cuts into Finn’s shoulder and is followed up soon by a vicious slash across his spine rendering him incapacitated.  In this novel, as well as with the adult novel, the shoulder injury is not mentioned, and Finn is seriously wounded by a slash to the chest.  Likely, this was how it was in the original screenplay, but was changed later during production of the film, perhaps too late to make the change in the novel.


It’s hard to say if this novel would have been as enjoyable without having seen the film and having that has a reference, but I can never read it from that perspective as I can’t unsee the movie.  Regardless, I was definitely able to relive the film in page format through this novel, whether it be from my memory of the film, Kogge’s writing, or perhaps a combination of both.  I enjoyed this book tremendously and look forward to getting the hardcover for my son when it is released on February 16th.


The one criticism I have of the book is that the third act as a whole felt a little rushed.  There was a good deal of set up in the first two acts of the book and the climactic third act seemed to have been crammed into a much tighter space, almost as if Kogge was intentionally trying to fit the story within a set limit of pages.  It was a great read though, and I highly recommend it for those who wish to share the story with a child or those who have read Before the Awakening, as this adaptation is a more natural follow up than the adult novel, which more or less stands on its own in terms of narrative.  The book is available now in the digital format and will be released in February in hardback and paperback.


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Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

Jordan Pate (Hard Case)

Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

17 thoughts on “SWNN Review: The Force Awakens Junior Novelization by Michael Kogge

  • December 31, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Does the junior novel also include Maz’s second “sight” of Finn when she now sees a warrior rather than a man wanting to run ?

    • December 31, 2015 at 8:45 pm


  • January 1, 2016 at 1:30 am

    In this novel, do Finn or Rey have thoughts that tell the reader that they might be romantically interested in each other? Dish, dish, dish!

    • January 4, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      There are some subtle and not so subtle hints that there is a physical attraction between the two in the beginning. The movie made Finn’s attraction pretty clear with the “Got a cute boyfriend?” comment. But there is also a subtle moment in the novel where we get into Rey’s head right after their escape from Jakku in the Falcon, and she seems to find him somewhat attractive. Here’s an excerpt:

      ” For a few moments, everything was perfect. Rey had given Unkar Plutt his comeuppance. She’d escaped soldiers and pilots aiming to kill her. And she’d found a new friend who, unlike BB-8, was flesh and blood. In fact, after getting a good look at him, he was quite –

      He cut into her thoughts. ‘Why are we – ‘

      ‘Staring at each other?’

      ‘Yeah,’ he said.

      ‘I don’t know.’ ”

      It’s pretty clear that they notice each other in that way, but I also think it’s clear by the end that the relationship that has developed is definitely in the friend zone and not a romantic one. Here’s an excerpt from Rey’s goodbye to an unconscious Finn at the Resistance base (notice the repetition of the word “friend”):

      “Doctor Kalonia, the same physician who had treated Chewbacca, assured Rey her friend was going to be fine. But that had been a few days before, and Finn’s condition remained the same.

      Rey sat with Finn for what must’ve been hours. When it was time to leave, she bent over his recovery pod and kissed him. ‘We’ll see each other again. I believe that. Thank you, my friend.’ ”

      In the movie, we see her kiss him on the forehead. I doubt the relationship between the two will ever grow into something romantic, despite their mutual physical attraction at their meeting. I actually hope it doesn’t move in that direction, as the friendship is already something deep and special. I think they’ll give Finn a girl, but I doubt it will be Rey.

  • January 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    My observations from seeing the movie a second time:

    Rey has a straw doll that appears to be dressed as an orange Rebel pilot. And she puts on a Rebel pilot helmet. Could these two things hint to us that Rey’s mother was a Rebel pilot?

    Was young Rey actually left in the care of Plutt? Maybe she was running after the departing ship, crying, collided into Plutt who grabbed her hand and told her to be quiet. (This could also tie in with why Rey didn’t like Finn taking her hand.)

    Could Snoke be of the same alien race as the first Inquisitor from the Rebels series?

    Could Snap (Greg Grunberg) and Kaydel (Billie Lourd) be a couple? When we first see them in the Resistance base, they are standing close to another. Perhaps we’ll see more of them in the next two movies as a “background couple.”

    Anakin’s saber goes to Rey, not Kylo. This could be further evidence that Rey is Luke’s daughter — the saber was made by Anakin when he was with the light. Kylo honors the dark side of his grandfather, so maybe that’s why the saber went to Rey instead.

    What caused R2 to wake from sleep mode? I think it’s Rey’s presence when she arrives on the Resistance base for the first time. The scene immediately after her arrival is when R2 wakes up. It wasn’t the presence of Anakin’s saber, which arrived on the base earlier, when Finn was carrying it with him. So it appears that it was Rey’s close proximity that woke R2.

    • January 1, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      Im pretty sure that Plutt who takes Rey’s hand. It says ,,quiet girl!” with a voice very similar to Plutt’s.

    • January 1, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      I believe Andy Serkis said that Snoke is of a race that we’ve never seen in Star Wars before.

    • January 1, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      what If Rey’s FATHER was a pilot?
      I just saw TFA again, and I can assure that Snoke is not a Pau’an.

  • January 1, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    When’s the next canon novel coming out?

    • January 1, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      Try looking that up in Wookiepedia.

    • January 3, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      I believe Claudia Gray’s New Republic: Bloodlines is the next up and it’s slated for March or April.

      • January 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm

        Correction: The book is scheduled for release May 3rd. And then Aftermath: Life Debt on May 31st.

  • January 1, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Question that I need to be answered: did Rey brake Kylo’s lightsaber at the end of the duel, or was the blade lost? I’ve seen the film three times, and couldn’t figure it well

    • January 1, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      I’ve seen a lot of people saying that the lightsaber was broken and the mask was left behind, so Kylo could very well have new versions of both in Episode VIII. Personally, I think it would be a cool twist to have him be completely maskless, and just let his anger and nasty scar be the intimidating part of his porrsona. As for the lightsaber, I hope he finds and uses Vader’s.

      • January 1, 2016 at 11:08 pm

        dammit! I liked that blade!

  • January 1, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Nice review. Does it say what planet Luke is on?

    • January 1, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      No, but the script does. It’s called “Ach-to”, but that could just be a placeholder.

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