Young Reader Review: The Force Awakens: Finn’s Story

The Force Awakens: Finn's Story

-Spoiler Review-

Set in the same vein as Rey’s Story, a young reader’s adaptation of The Force Awakens which showed the events of the film through Rey’s eyes, released earlier this year, comes Finn’s Story. Jesse Holland re-tells the narrative of The Force Awakens through Finn’s eyes, maybe one of the most undeveloped points of the view in the Sequel Trilogy so far. Is there enough worth gleaning from Finn’s eyes to justify another retreading of the film?

Before coming into this book, I had realized that Finn has been, so far, tragically underdeveloped in the canon. With Rey, we’ve already received her story as mentioned above, but we also read a story featuring her in Before the Awakening. Not only that, but The Force Awakens is really her story above anybody else’s. Though Poe had little screen time in the film, we’ve read his story in Before the Awakening, and read his new ongoing comic book series. Though we’ve also received a story featuring Finn in Before the Awakening, his story seems bare to me compared to the rest. I was excited that this book would give us more time with the stormtrooper-turned-hero. On most points, I was not disappointed with this new book.

The book, surprisingly, opens at the ending of Finn’s story in Before the Awakening rather than starting at the beginning of the film. This was extremely well done: not only did it catch me off guard, but it also set up the emotional power of Finn’s story. We’re re-introduced to the FN-Squad, the four stormtroopers who accompanied Finn in the First Order. Readers unfamiliar with Before the Awakening are shown his squadmates and given a bit of their backstory: FN-2000, or Zeroes, FN-2199, or Nines, and FN-2003, or Slip. Most of us who follow everything from the galaxy far, far away closely already knew that Finn faced Nines on Takodana and that Slip was the trooper killed on Jakku. Regardless, this extended introduction served as a great reminder for us and a great learning point for new readers. This introduction also, albeit briefly, gave a synopsis of Finn’s first non-combat mission. Sent to Pressy’s Trumble to settle a labor dispute, Finn’s squad was called upon to murder a group of striking miners rather than come to terms with their demands for better living and working conditions. This is the beginning of Finn’s turn. Rather than go too far into this story, I recommend checking out our review of the book itself.

After setting the stage, the story moves to Jakku. We’re immediately met with the death of Slip, which now has much more significance than it did in the movie. Not only do we see that Finn is wary of being forced to kill civilians, but we also see that the battle took a personal toll on him in terms of losing people he cared about. We also enter his mind a bit more as he and Kylo Ren stare at each other after the troopers are commanded to kill the population of the village. Finn is terrified that Ren knows that Finn has already disobeyed, but is relieved to find out that Ren is unaware. For now.

After this, the book proceeds pretty much as you would expect. It cuts scenes that Finn wasn’t present at and deletes dialogue that he wouldn’t have been able to hear. For those of us who have already watched the movie dozens of times, read Alan Dean Foster’s novel, Michael Kogge’s young reader adaptation, Rey’s Story, and are working through Chuck Wendig’s Marvel comic adaptation, it was nice to not cover everything again. This makes the book move extremely quickly: the events are probably so fresh in your mind you could quote most of the lines alongside the book.

The next major chunk of “new” material comes at Takodana. After trying to run away with Captain Ithano and First Mate Quiggold, Finn is drawn back to the battle when he sees the destruction of the Hosnian system.  As Finn returns to the battle to save Rey, he is granted a lightsaber. Very quickly after taking the saber into battle, Finn encounters Nines. Again, seeing the squad together at the beginning of the book made this encounter have much more emotional weight. I wish the book would have addressed Finn’s feelings about fighting a former squadmate a bit more explicit, though. A reaction, at any point, from the bridge of the Finalizer to Takodana, to killing a Stormtrooper would have been extremely fascinating. Rather, the burden of discovering and feeling the emotional weight of fighting his friends is left on us. That’s not to say the emotional weight isn’t there, but it’s probably downplayed for the children who could hear this as a bedtime story or read it to themselves.

Oddly enough, Finn doesn’t reach D’Qar until page 112 of 135. This doesn’t seem like a lot of time to discuss his reaction to seeing Poe, being in the Resistance war room, or even his fight with Kylo. Rey’s Story had the same problem: both Finn and Rey’s fight with Kylo are severely abridged as the book runs out of pages half-way through re-telling the film’s story (usually around the events on Takodana). At this point, from the conference on D’Qar with the Resistance leaders, the book resumes a fairly straightforward retelling as it had between the encounters with Slip and Nines.

Maybe the nicest part, in a sick way, is Finn’s acknowledgement, before falling into a coma induced by a precision lightsaber blow to the back by Kylo, that Rey is his only hope. If The Force Awakens has done anything, it has succeeded in re-imagining everything we know about the OT and showing how our new heroes embody those themes.

For a five dollar children’s book, it is hard to be disappointed with any part of it. I would have liked to get into Finn’s head a bit more than we did; we do see his prolonged struggle with lying to Rey, but this is about the only “new” point of view that we have. While Rey’s Story provided an extended look at Rey’s escape from Starkiller Base, Finn does not get the same luxury. Nothing is expanded that hasn’t already been touched on in another novel, nor are there any completely new scenes (compare this to Rey’s Story where Leia and Rey actually speak to each other!)

For what it sets out to do, Finn’s Story succeeds. It’s an abridged re-telling of a great film through the lens of one of the major characters. For those looking for a host of new insights into the film, you probably won’t get many here. The film has already been excavated numerous times, so anything new would be surprising. But, we do get the advantage of experiencing the story again with the knowledge we’ve accumulated over the past year or so. (Maybe we could get Han’s Story or Leia’s Story soon which incorporates everything from Life Debt and Bloodline?!?) It’s a cheap, and quick, way to re-experience the film that we all loved, and for that, I am thankful for the book.

Chris Wermeskerch is Mynock Manor’s Sous Chef. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisWerms.

You can follow the site at @MynockManor

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