It’s very rare that a book will grab me and keep me reading through a whirlwind of emotions. I’m so grateful someone from the publisher reached out to me about this book.* All I knew going in is that the main character is LGBT (she’s transgender, but also a lesbian) and this is a superhero story. It didn’t hurt that it was a young adult book (yay more diversity).
The publisher didn’t compare it to Perry Moore’s Hero, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I think it deserves a mention. Although it’s about a cisgendered (born and identified) male, the group of quirky superheroes in that book reminded me a lot of where I’m hoping Dreadnought will go in the series.
I think what I enjoyed most about the book was Daniels’ writing from the teen perspective. She didn’t try to force it too much. There was swearing, there was super corny stuff, and there were times where it felt Danny, the main character, was trying to talk like she was a lot older than she is. That’s what teens do. All of the teen characters were relatable and I’ve been out of my teens for over a decade now (OMG I’m old).
All of this being said, I think where Daniels really hits her stride is in the conflicts surrounding Danny’s gender. I’m glad she didn’t overdo it because so many LGBT authors put too much of an emphasis on it, but with the amount she included she shared some incredibly powerful moments that many trans* individuals I’m sure have faced. I remember hearing similar arguments about women only spaces when I was pursuing my Master’s degree in Gender, Sexuality and Queer Theory:
“I don’t blame you any more than I would blame an Ebola victim. Society has fed your generation so many toxic ideas about gender, it’s only natural some of you would crack. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t dangerous. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be expunged. You reify the holocaust of gender, you invade my sex, and you poison my sisters by your simple presence. You cannot possibly understand what it means to be a woman, and you rape us all when you try. If you will not surrender the mantle, I will be forced to destroy you.” (190)
It’s this type of thinking that is seriously messed up. It also reminds me of one of my favorite lines by the slam poet Alix Olson. It’s from her piece called Cunt Cuntry (lyrickid.com) where she is reclaiming the word. I debated bleeping it or even editing it, but with such a beautiful story Daniels wrote, I don’t think I need to because it’s more powerful unedited.
For all cunted creatures, created or by birth.
And they’d wear buttons with fists raised, that say:
Patriarchy! I survived! Now this Dick’s fighting the Good Fight for
And then where Daniels hits it home is when she describes why Danny wants to harness the powers she has randomly received and use them for good:
“‘I got pushed around a lot when I was little. Even after it eased up when I hit my growth spurt, I still don’t feel safe at school unless I’m hiding in a corner where nobody goes. Buy now, I’ve got these powers so nobody—’ My father looms in my mind’s eye. ‘—can push me around anymore. And I don’t want to let them hurt anyone else, either.” (186)
It’s not about bullying the bullies. It’s about standing up to them and protecting the innocent and the downtrodden.
I don’t know how much of this is based on Daniels experience, or at least what I’m gathering from visiting her website, but either way Daniels has written a wonderfully heartfelt story that I cannot wait to dive back into the series.
I haven’t even begun to talk about all the other things I really enjoyed about the book (minor characters are great, the tension between Dreadnought and another character, resolution of the family drama) and I don’t know if I’m going to. I get the feeling I might re-read this book before the next one comes out. It’s that kind of book 😀
Recommendation: I think this is a strong debut novel and I definitely plan to keep an ear out for future works by her! I’m already counting down until I can get my hands on a review of the next book in the series. Seriously, if you want to read a great story then you should check this one out. It’s just an added bonus that it gives voice to a character most people don’t get to hear from very often.
*I received a copy of this from the publisher in return for an honest response. No goods or money were exchanged.
Opening Line: “This is taking too long. I just want to pay for the shit and go.”
Closing Line: “Because I’m Dreadnought. And I think maybe I could be a good person.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers. Highlight to read.)