I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of You Only Live Once, Danny Bravo by Mark Oshiro. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In You Only Live Once, Danny Bravo, Danny has just started middle school. He’s hoping it will be a wonderful school year, but quickly makes one mistake after another. He does a poor job in a class presentation, eats bad spinach, then trips his best friend on the track, breaking the other boy’s ankle. But then, a strange shape-shifting dog that only he can see and hear appears to him and tells him that she can help fix his problems. So traveling through time over and over, Danny tries to improve his life, even while grappling with his own identity and place in the world.
This was a cute book! I liked Danny as a main character—he’s very typical of many middle school children, but not in an obnoxious way. He’s impulsive and stubborn, but also kind and well-meaning. I liked watching his character growth throughout the story. The other characters, especially Fea and Antoine and Danny’s parents, are also great.
One of my favorite elements of the story was not, in fact, the time travel aspect. I actually was more interested in the exploration of identity, especially for kids who are adopted. Danny doesn’t know anything about his birth parents, and that lack of knowledge ends up contributing both to the plot and to Danny’s personal journey. It all culminates in a really sweet, heartwarming message about family.
The time travel stuff was fun, too, though not the best version of this sort of plot device I’ve ever seen. Some of the rules felt kind of convenient, but it was still a fun way to get Danny to try things again. Luckily, the repeated moments in each timeline didn’t get redundant or tedious to read, as each one ended up being so different. All in all, a fun sci-fi twist to the otherwise grounded story.
In the end, You Only Live Once, Danny Bravo is an entertaining romp through a boy’s first days in school as he makes mistakes, learns from them, and finds a new path forward. There’s humor and heart, and some excellent themes. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author (especially since this is the co-author of the upcoming Nico di Angelo novel)!
You Only Live Once, Danny Bravo is now available!