I should start off this review with a couple of notes.
First, I'm not familiar with James Patterson's past works, though I have probably seen movies inspired by his books. So unlike many of the prior reviews I've seen, I didn't bring any expectations based on past experience into the reading of this book. Also worth noting is that I am a kid at heart, although I tend to read (and write) darker, more adult-oriented fair more often than not. But when this book came to my attention the day of its release, I felt strongly compelled to read it, and so I downloaded it to my Kindle and began reading it soon after. And yes, I am happy I did.
Daniel X is the story of a 15-year-old boy who is an alien hunter, the orphan of parents who themselves were alien hunters, but who were murdered when he was three by the number one target on the List of aliens, who goes by the name "The Prayer." While Daniel's ultimate goal is to find The Prayer and make him pay for murdering his family, in this book Daniel is searching out alien number 6, a particularly nasty child stealing, drug dealing, bad movie producing being named Ergent Seth. Daniel, who has the power to literally create out of thin air and frequently conjures up his dead family or his quartet of teenage friends, usually for either emotional support of for help in a tight spot, goes after Seth, the most powerful foe he's yet to face. At first Daniel seems to have everything under control, but as the best laid plans are wont to do, things quickly go awry, and the hunter suddenly becomes the prey.
"The Dangerous Days of Daniel X" is a fun and quick read, and the writing is clearly targeted for the young adult market, and I'd say even younger. Although 15 years old, Daniel often sounds and thinks more like an 8-year-old, so the book is a pretty safe read for most ages. In some ways it may even appeal to the younger kids more, given that today's young adult books usually cover more mature subjects and the issues of love and angst that are part of today's teen life. And therein lies both the strength and the weakness, such as it is, of this book. When reading the book, I can't help but feel that the book is almost too simplistic, that it was like a white wall scrubbed so hard to make it squeaky clean that the paint came a hair's breadth away from being peeled right off. While I personally enjoyed the book, which reminded me of some of my favorite childhood books like "The Forgotten Door" by Alexander Key and "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" by Robert A. Heinlein, books that each beautifully capture the sense of childhood wonder that I remember so fondly, I just didn't buy that this teenage boy, who's presumably been on his own since the age of three and therefore grew up really fast, remains as sweet and innocent as Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham with wings and a halo thrown in for good measure. Patterson may have been better served to make Daniel younger, perhaps ten or so, just to more convincingly fit into the childlike mentality which he's bestowed upon this boy. While I think the book should be judged on its own merits, and not compared to past works by Mr. Patterson, I can see why the book is disappointing to some. It has neither the maturity nor the complexity of the king of Y/A fiction, Harry Potter, and yet it seems to aim for an audience more mature than the writing itself speaks to.
Having said all of that, I enjoyed the book, and will probably read the sequels that are previewed at the end of the book. It'll be interesting to see where Mr. Patterson takes this series, because it has the potential of getting better with subsequent books, if the author decides to age Daniel so that he better fits into a teenager's shoes. If you have young kids, or prefer to read clean, wholesome kid fiction, this is the book for you. If you are looking for more, then I'm afraid you may find this book a let down.
Let's hope that like a fine wine, Daniel X gets better with age.
- Gregory Bernard Banks, author, reader, reviewer