Growing up in an orphanage named St. Barnaby’s Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost does not inspire a kid to have much hope or fun in life. Jack Blank has spent the whole of his life at St. Barnaby’s, where he is not only the most disliked and picked upon child, he doesn’t even know who he is. The last name Blank only came about because he always had to leave the field for last name blank when filling out forms, and to top it all off, according to his school aptitude tests, his highest career aspiration is to become a toilet brush cleaner. Yet, Jack is not without spirit. He is creative and imaginative despite all efforts to beat it out of him, thanks to the comic books he smuggled out of the trash. Then one day, Jack is attacked by a Robo-Zombie, just like a character in one of his comic books and everything changes. All of a sudden a mysterious agent appears to take Jack to an island called the Imagine Nation, where it seems Jack was born. In the Imagine Nation, Jack realizes that his favorite comic book characters are real. The citizens of Imagine Nation range from superheroes, warriors, aliens, robots, and ninjas to inventive scientists and technologists. In the Imagine Nation, Jack discovers that he too has powers and in learning his identity realizes that the distinction between hero and villain is not as clear it seems in comic books.
Incorporating elements of comic books, medieval legends, fantasy and science fiction, the world Matt Myklusch created in the Imagine Nation is vast and inventive. The book moves slowly at first due the enormity of genres and concepts Myklusch needs to illustrate in order to establish the background and describe the many facets of the landscape of the Imagine Nation, but after that readers will find themselves engaged in both the storyline, which is in solving the mystery of Jack’s identity, and the intricacies of the Imagine Nation itself.
One of the concepts detailed in the book that I really enjoyed is creativity and the power of the imagination. The agent who takes Jack to the Imagine Nation tells him that he has to truly believe before he goes there:
All the fantastic, unbelievable things in this world start in the Imagine Nation. It’s a real place, but you can’t get there if you try to keep one foot in the real world when you go. Only people who believe in the unbelievable are able to see the island. To find it, you have to believe that there’s a place out there where the impossible is possible. You have to believe it deep in your heart. If you can’t do that, you won’t recognize it when you see it. Even if it’s staring you right in the face.The agent tells Jack it is the influence of the Imagine Nation that led to time periods like the Age of Exploration and the Enlightenment, and that many long ago writers, artists and world changers came from the Imagine Nation. But it is not the same anymore with less people being able to find the Imagine Nation and becoming less adventurous. It parallels our modern times, where children do not read as much and there is less creativity in schools. It is thanks to books like The Accidental Hero, and other fantastical and imaginative stories that reading is beginning to regain popularity. Along with supporting the renewal of creativity and imagination, this book also stresses that a person’s future is what they make of it. Overall, this is an enjoyable book.