‘Padawan’ by Kiersten White Review: The Anxious Thoughts of Teenage Obi-Wan Kenobi

cover of Padawan by Kiersten White
©Lucasfilm Ltd

The year continues to be an enlightening ride for Obi-Wan Kenobi fans. First, with Mike Chen’s Brotherhood, then the Disney Plus series, getting to know the fan-favorite Jedi more has been a treat we won’t get tired of appreciating. Padawan by Kiersten White continues in the brilliant pattern by giving readers a careful examination of the anxious thoughts of Obi-Wan Kenobi while taking the apprentice on a life-changing adventure. 

There’s no doubt about how this version of Obi-Wan grows to be the man we meet in Disney’s Kenobi series. And while the events of Lenahra are fascinating, the parts of the book that stand out are White’s means of interweaving Obi-Wan’s anxiety into the overarching story. As a coming-of-age story, we needed to get inside the Padawan’s head in order to understand much of his later actions.

Though a Young Adult novel, there’s something achingly relatable to the emotional turmoil that White dives into. It’s easy to recognize Obi-Wan’s imposter syndrome when you’re battling it yourself, and he has no idea what that even means. It’s easy to see his innate desire to belong somewhere—to feel like he has a purpose even though there’s time for all that. The novel’s best features are White’s ability to target human emotions in a world where we’re dealing with potential otherworldly threats and uncertainties. Throughout the entire thing, all I wanted to know was precisely how he was feeling at every given turn because the internal monologue is so well done that it’s too painful at times.

Obi-Wan’s anxiety is a tremendous part of his character. The spirit of a kind man who often does his best to please others has spoken to many of us in the past, and Padawan continues to exhibit why. And while anxious turmoils seldom entirely go away, there’s a lull at some point where those distressing thoughts are a bit quieter. In this novel, however, we’re at the height of it, which makes it feel much more relatable because teen years are some of the most grueling for many of us. And how these anxious thoughts manifest themselves further in the face of trauma is then what we are shown in Deborah Chow’s TV series, as the story dives further into Obi-Wan’s brokenness. 

There’s a plethora that this novel does to dive further into the character’s thought process regarding everything he’s learning about himself, including his sexuality. It looks into his kindness above all things, painting him as a boy who’s consistently trying to do the right thing even when it blows up in his face or backfires. It breaks specific Jedi molds by allowing the young Padawan to be deeply flawed while he grapples with whether or not he’s worth fighting for.

There’s something innately fascinating about how Obi-Wan’s exterior masks much of his internal trauma until the TV series leans further into it. And that’s perhaps the detail that hits the hardest as it allows readers to understand that this has been an ongoing battle with the character since day one. In the first few chapters alone, Padawan dives so heavily into this that it makes the book easier to absorb oneself into. And though I wish we could’ve gotten more of Obi-Wan and his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, the inner workings of the apprentice’s mindset as he finds pieces of himself are well deserving of intertwining with canon. 

More often than not, perfectionism is brought on by anxiety. Thus, understanding how much Obi-Wan struggled in his early years as a Padawan brings this truth to life in the face of a character whose deeply well received by fans but whose behavior has been deemed a paradigm for other characters. And it isn’t to say that he doesn’t deserve the recognition because he most certainly does, but it’s imperative to recognize the internal battles Obi-Wan fought through to get to where he is in A New Hope. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to push through what you think you’re meant to do and where you’re supposed to head towards. There are doubts along the way, and a lot of fighting takes place to prove why you belong there (even though there really shouldn’t be). There’s beauty in the in-between of it all, but sometimes, immense pain and uncertainties burn brighter than hope. Padawan by Kiersten White dives into the in-between while meticulously examining what the Jedi Order represents and whether it’s worth fighting for. In the case of some characters, there’s plenty that can be said about why it’s wrong for them, but for Obi-Wan Kenobi, though his path was far from easy, his endurance showcases why our battles matter in the long run.

Essentially, you’ll come out of the novel wanting to wrap the sweet anxious bunny rabbit Padawan in a warm blanket and tell him that everything will be okay. It’ll be worth it in the end, but more importantly, he’s worth it. Obi-Wan Kenobi is worth everything and deserving of the world. 

Padawan by Kiersten White is now available for purchase.

Further Recommended Reading: Brotherhood by Mike Chen and Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray


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