Dreadnought by April Daniels

Inside cover blurb:

“Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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THIS IS THE ONLY YA SUPERHERO BOOK WE WILL EVER NEED.

Not only is Deadnought a fantastic action/adventure story, it is one of the best coming of age novels I have ever read.

Imagine getting superpowers as a teenager…that would be hard enough. But getting superpowers and finally becoming the gender you’ve known you were all along- so your friends and parents no longer recognize you? And they willfully refuse to recognize you? Sheesh.

The relationship between Danny and her parents literally killed me. Her dad is infuriating, refusing to accept that she’s trans and outright bullying his own child, while her mom takes the much more insidious route, claiming that Danny is only thinking of herself when she refuses to give up the Dreadnought mantle and resume her life as a boy.

And I have not in recent memory wanted to smack a character more than I wanted to smack Danny’s childhood friend when he reveals what a chauvinist jerk he is.

The strongest aspect of the book is Danny and her personal journey, however. The superhero part is good, but it’s just not as good. I mean how can any sci-fi/fantasy plot compete with the raw emotion of Danny’s complex interpersonal relationships? That sounds like sarcasm, but it seriously isn’t. A superhero book has never made me feel this many emotions before.

I would like to enthusiastically applaud April Daniels (and then give her a giant hug), for writing a trans superhero novel, and one that was so spectacularly well done!

Plus: Trans superhero. Seriously, do I need to say more???

Minus: The fight/action scenes were often waaaaay too long and drawn out.

If you like this book, try:

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Sovereign by April Daniels- DID I MENTION THERE’S A SEQUEL?? I’m a bit hesitant to read it because sequels often fall short. But I loved the first one so much, I will at least have to give this one a shot.

 

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Inside cover blurb:

“For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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NERD LOVE AT ITS FINEST. And I am in love with this book!

I’ll admit, I was not impressed at first. Word such as “squad” were used in a completely unironic way and I was initially a bit repulsed by this. It’s that feeling you get when authors try too hard at teen dialogue.

But eventually Emergency Contact unfolded into a love story so close to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl on the scale of relatability and pure excellence…. Sam and Penny fall in love over text. This is the epitome of romance in the modern age.

And they both have such good backstories- Penny with her embarrassing mom and social anxieties, Sam with his broken relationships, with his mother and with his on-again off-again girlfriend, Lorraine.

The way their relationship unfolds is just so dang sweet. I bet I looked like a huge dork, grinning so hard while reading it. I really appreciate that Sam and Penny are able to maintain their identities and their respective passions while falling for each other, even when love can be so all consuming.

And I love that a nerdy girl wins the day and finds her happiness! We need more stories like this.

Plus: Great characters, great contemporary story. It’s the must read novel of the spring.

Minus: This book is so millenial it hurts. Just look at the rose gold cover. But do not let this dissuade you because it is millenial perfection.

If you like this book, try:

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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell- You thought I was going to recommend Fangirl? Well I still do, but I also recommend Eleanor and Park, another fantastic story of an unlikely couple.

 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Inside cover blurb:

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

THIS BOOK.

Children of Blood and Bone manages to be great at everything- fantastic setting and world building, realistic and relatable characters, fast paced and intriguing plot…There has been a lot of hype about this book and I believe it is totally deserved.

Historically, I haven’t always enjoyed these kinds of dystopian fantasies with different classes of peoples and powers. But I thought this one was skillfully done. No info dumps here, the details of this world are are explained naturally as the story unfolds.

The main character, Zélie, is very relatable. She is powerful, but doubts herself. She is angry about what has been done to her and her family, but she is also weary and scared at the thought of what she must do to bring magic back for her people. The POV alternates among Zélie, and the prince and princess of  Orïsha, Inan and Amari- who are on opposite sides of the struggle by the way.

This book is clearly a reflection of current events that we face on a daily basis- discrimination, oppression, and fear of the other. That itself is a noble framework for a novel. However, not only does Adeyemi write about these difficult topics, she has seamlessly woven them into a fantastical, magical world.

When do we get book 2???

Plus: A magical kingdom, complex characters, ancestor worship, teens working together to overthrow oppressive power structures.

Minus: There honestly wasn’t anything I would have changed about this book!

If you like this book, try:

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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okarafor- A book about a Nigerian witch! And even better, the sequel, Akata Warrior, came out late last year.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Inside cover blurb:

“Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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This book is so friggin’ cute, it hurts.

Allll of the characters and their storylines are great- Charlie, struggling with how to be in a relationship and still be herself, and Taylor, struggling with change and self-acceptance.

At first, I thought the book would be kind of shallow. And it did kind of give me some Famous in Love feels (the show…I haven’t read the book, which I know, shame on me) in the depiction of Charlie and Reese’s relationship. But the comparison ends there.

This book covers all your bases: feminism, mental health awareness, sexuality, race…there’s actually a lot of depth packed into this gem!

And all of the fandom references made my heart so happy. Any book that mentions Supernatural is automatically getting a high rating from me.

Plus: Fandoms! Fantastic depiction of social anxiety disorders. And adorable geek romance. It’s the perfect storm.

Minus: Reese is a total douche! But he’s supposed to be that way, unfortunately.

If you like this book, try:

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Geekerella by Ashley Poston- A fandom-filled take on Cinderella! This book promises just as much cheese and adorable romance as Queens of Geek.

Release by Patrick Ness

Inside cover blurb:

“Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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Apparently no relevant gifs appear when you Google “Bookception,” so I had to make do.

Two storylines! But woven together so wonderfully…

Adam’s storyline sparks a supernatural journey of vengeance and, you guessed it, release. Both storylines mirror each other in the most fantastic way.

A lot is happening here and it’s crazy to think that it’s all in one day! Adam is a really relatable character, trying to differentiate between what he had, what he has, and what his future will hold.

I will say there is a lot of sex in the book. Which is weird considering Adam makes a point of saying that his and his best friend’s sex lives are underwhelming or typical or something like that….but I’m going to go ahead and disagree with that statement!

This is my second Ness book this year and I’d never read anything by him before. But I’m kind of thinking I need to go read everything he’s ever written because both books were amazing!

He has such a gift for exploring everyday life by juxtaposing it to the supernatural/magical. It’s probably not for everyone, but I just find it so intriguing!

Plus: So many important things in such a short book! It’s just beautiful and strange and great.

Minus: A little TMI on the sex life at some points…but maybe that’s just me. I do give major props for freely writing about a gay main character’s sex life- that is something we don’t see a lot of.

If you like this book, try:

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We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson- In which a teenage boy has to decide whether or not to let aliens destroy the planet. I have yet to read any of Hutchinson’s books, but they sound just as enchanting and bizarre as Ness’. The covers even look similar…