You’ve been warned time and again not to judge a book by its cover. These days, many Star Wars books (and books in general) fall prey to a different type of judgment: Dismissal by publishing category. The High Republic is the series that suffers from this harsh judgment the most in Star Wars publishing.
The High Republic is a unique publishing initiative that incorporates a variety of stories all focused on a single era in the Star Wars timeline. These stories are interconnected, sharing characters, locations, themes, and even authors. So far, The High Republic has published adult, young adult, and middle-grade books, comics, manga, audio dramas, and short stories. At least one High Republic character will even make the jump to the small screen in Disney+’s The Acolyte.
The publishing initiative is designed so that readers do not have to consume every single story in the series to enjoy the overarching tale. Readers have the freedom to read in whatever format they choose, start anywhere, follow a select group of characters, and pick what they do and don’t want to explore.
One of the most common questions I get as a reviewer, promoter, and consumer of Star Wars books — including the High Republic — is: Do the kids’ books matter?
And that’s when my followers are kind enough to ask. Mostly my Instagram comments are filled with people insisting that “only the adult novels in The High Republic matter.”
Very few things bother me online these days, but this consistently irks me. Anyone is free to read or not read whatever they want — it’s not my job to tell you what to do. But so far, the young adult and middle-grade High Republic books have gone the extra mile to show audiences the depth of the devastating impact groups like the Nihil and the Path of the Open Hand have had on different communities throughout the galaxy.
In war, everyone suffers. But children and teenagers — the most innocent members of society, who deserve the chance to grow up safely and at an acceptable pace — suffer the most.
Nothing makes that clearer than these Star Wars books.
Every High Republic book should be granted equal weight when we’re talking about storytelling and relevance. Because even if you don’t like reading these books (you’re allowed not to and no one is shaming you for that), your dislike of them doesn’t determine their widespread value.
Most of the people who assure me these books don’t matter have never read them. They’re convinced that YA and middle-grade categories of books are somehow lesser because they’re “all-ages” stories. The prejudice against books that prominently feature younger characters (not necessarily less sinister or relatable themes) is widespread. It is unfair. And it is exhausting.
High Republic and middle-grade books focus on the same places and events as the adult novels — sometimes characters are shared, and other times they feature separate characters that are connected to others in one way or another. Largely, they chronicle the impact of the “larger” events of the adult novels on other parts of the galaxy. The ripple effects of the Great Disaster in Light of the Jedi, for example, seem even more devastating for the characters in A Test of Courage and Into the Dark.
Books that offer different perspectives on galaxy-wide events and showcase how these events effect different people are not lesser than. They’re just different. If you give them a try and don’t vibe with them, then you don’t have to read them.
But don’t immediately scoff at them just because of a label that helps shelve and sort books more than it describes what they’re actually about.
Don’t judge these books by their marketing tags. Young adult and middle-grade books are just as deep, action-packed, and relatable as adult novels — both within and outside of Star Wars. You may not be a 12-year-old now, but you were once. These characters’ experiences — aside from the fact they occur a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — are universal.
Star Wars books exist to be enjoyed. Not everyone has to. But everyone should be allowed to make that choice for themselves.
Star Wars The High Republic: Path of Vengeance goes on sale May 2, 2023 wherever you get your Star Wars books.
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