Many thanks to NetGalley and Diversion Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Edition: Ebook (276 pages)
Published on: January 24, 2017 (Diversion Books)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, she was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But then her second-hand superpowers transformed her 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 between her father’s dangerous obsession with curing her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and the classmate who is secretly a masked vigilante, Danny’s first weeks living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined.
She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, still haunts the streets of New Port City. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
This book had its strengths and weaknesses. One of the main strengths was in the subject itself: a transgender girl who is given her dream body when she procures superpowers. *Keep in mind that I am a cis girl myself, but my brother is a transgender boy, so take all of my opinions on this subject with that information.* I thought the biggest strengths were in Danny’s relationships with her family and friends, as well as in her personal growth. Danny’s relationship with her father especially was so well thought out and proceeded in such a great way throughout the arch of the story. I personally loved the abusive father storyline and how Danny was finally able to overcome the feelings of inferiority her father’s abuse had engrained in her throughout her life. Since this is an #ownvoices story, written by a transgender author, Danny’s feelings about her gender identity seemed very authentic, although I am not the authority and would love to hear what other transgender people think about this aspect.
Now on to the novel’s main weakness. I thought the worldbuilding definitely fell short in this narrative. There was so much potential here, but I felt like nothing was really fleshed out enough. Throughout the first 3/4 of this book I found myself not quite understanding the world and wishing I had more help. There were some hints at an alternate history with Nazis, but that was just glossed over! The other superheroes in “The League” seemed like they were all trying to have their own personalities and histories, but I just didn’t get enough out of them. I think there was just a lot more potential for background information and more vivid worldbuilding here. There were hints at how exactly Danny’s powers worked, which I didn’t think were totally fleshed out enough for me to see it. The world of Dreadnought needed more explaining.
I also want to stress that there is a definite trigger warning in this novel, for homophobic and transphobic slurs, as well as some triggering usage of the concept of rape that was troubling to me as a survivor. There were some places where I felt like such words and ideas were used too much for the shock value and could be triggering to trans/queer teens reading the book and looking for representation.
However, I absolutely ADORED the last quarter of this book. I’m not sure what happened: maybe it was Danny and Sarah’s relationship, maybe it was the great twist with the League, maybe it was just Danny finally coming into her own and overcoming her abuse, but I found myself tearing through the last 1/4 of this book and wishing I had loved the rest as much.
Overall, I thought this was a strong debut, and definitely a very important book for teens to read. It can help straight teens understand transgender and queer issues, and provides important representation for trans/queer teens that is not usually seen in YA novels, especially in the context of a fantasy/sci-fi world. I think, despite its weaknesses, this series has the potential to mean a lot to a lot of people and I’m proud to be able to review it.
Thanks for reading,