Dreadnought: Nemesis - Book One (April Daniels)

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.

This book is awesome! I went in with pretty high expectations and I was not disappointed. Though some of the in-text discussion of transness is pretty tense and there is a fair amount of transphobic and homophobic language used by Danny's father, I feel that this book is still more of a superhero narrative rather than a trans narrative. Daniels has created a world that, while grounded in contemporary conceptions of hetero- and cisnormativity, is also one in which the existence of superheroes and supervillains is simply par for the course (similar in a lot of ways to the treatment of superheroes in Patrick Ness's The Rest of Us Just Live Here). 

Danny is a wonderfully realized character with super (pun intended) complicated emotions, at some points wishing her father was dead, and then feeling guilty, and then going back to wishing he was dead. She also has complex feelings for her new crime-fighting friend, Calamity, and spends a good portion of the novel trying to figure out if she wants to be a Legion member (a whitecape) or a graycape. I love that Daniels doesn't make the lines to distinct between the "good guys" and the "bad guys." And even the supervillain(s) are given enough nuanced description that I was constantly wondering if some of them were truly villains at all.

The pacing is quick, the action sequences heart-pounding, and the character development thorough. Though some who have issues with the amount of collateral damage in many hero stories might find the amount of destruction to be excessive, fans of superhero narratives will definitely find a whole lot to capture their imaginations here.

Highly Recommended

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