Next Monday is a book birthday for one of my fellow bloggers at Speculative Chic, but I couldn’t wait any longer! I was thrilled to receive an advanced electronic copy of this debut novel. This was a great, fun read that will appeal to adult and young adult readers alike, with just enough superhero antics to make you feel like you’re in the movie theater with the bonus of a longer narrative and way more interesting things than can be packed into a two-hour time span. Congratulations on the new book, Nancy — I already can’t wait for the next in the series.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Dawn Takahashi knows a thing or two about superheroes, from the fictional ones that populate her favorite comic books, to the real-life vigilantes who keep people safe. When she’s granted an impressive set of powers of her own, she dives right in, eager to prove herself as Bailey City’s first legitimate superhero. Dressed in red and black, Dawn spends her nights jumping from rooftop to rooftop, apprehending criminals with a smile. But by day, she finds her interactions marred by crippling social awkwardness.
Alex Gage is used to life giving him the short end of the stick, from his working-class upbringing, to the recent death of his mother. He works hard to support his younger sisters, hiding his anger and frustration behind laid back charm. It’s this charm that first draws Alex and Dawn together, but their secrets may tear them apart. Because while Dawn protects the city against threats, Alex unknowingly undermines her efforts by working as a henchman for Calypso, a mysterious woman who can make anyone loyal to her with a single touch of her hand.
It’s the classic story of boy meets girl. And hero versus villain. Where only one side can win.
Disclaimer: The author is a fellow contributor to a shared blog; I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book falls squarely in that sweet spot of being completely appropriate for both adult and young adult audiences. There’s a bit of brand-name pop culture referencing that feels a bit more YA, but there’s never a moment when I want to smack any of the characters upside the head for being idiots about relationships, which I will admit is my personal litmus test for whether a story will appeal to adults.
Aren’t we over the superhero thing, though, thanks to constant exposure on television and the big screen? Absolutely not, if this book has anything to say about it. Dawn is delightfully self-aware of the history of her profession, and her list of personal and practical rules of how to be a superhero are one of my favorite parts of the book. The story both acknowledges and destroys tropes in the same breath. Even better: this book is NOT an origin story. A bit of backstory comes in at about the one-third mark, right when you’re really craving it — and then the author never gives you all the details, leaving you wanting much, much more.
We don’t just get Dawn’s story, however, and despite how easy it would be to portray Alex as a reluctant villain, the author has to go and get his family involved. The sadly realistic representation of how a family can struggle after loss justified a lot of Alex’s actions even if they were disagreeable.
So after all that gushing, why did I only give this book four stars? Simple — room to grow. Meservier leans on some writing ticks that a lot of debut authors have, such as excessive use of physical attributes to describe character and too much unnecessary setting detail. But this is all presented in a breezy, conversational narrative that really shines with character voice, so it’s only in retrospect that you really wonder whether you needed to know about every item in a room.
This is blatantly the first book in a series, but it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. The main conflict is resolved thoroughly, but in a way that sets of plenty of questions to leave me already anxious to read the next installment. Miss Red and Black (not her official superhero name) is definitely a hero to keep an eye on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy O’Toole Meservier is a vertically challenged librarian who spends her off hours writing fiction, reading sci-fi/fantasy books and comics, watching geeky television, and thinking way too much about superheroes. She lives in Lewiston, Maine with two wonderful cats, and one equally wonderful husband.