This is a book that I picked up at BEA and got signed by the author I love this cover!!
The Premise: In this young adult novel, the focus is on Damien Locke, a supervillian-in-training – or so he thought, until his 16th birthday when he discovers that he’s really half-superhero and his dad is one of the most moralistic Do Gooders out there. Disgusted and betrayed, Damien can’t believe that things can get worse – but they do. His father insists that Damien stay with him for six weeks so that Damien can learn about life among the Good Guys. His mom, a supervillian, agrees to the arrangement so that Damien can know the enemy and to get him out of the house while she works on her latest diabolical plan. There’s no way he would become a superhero, right? Except that Damien slowly begins to acclimatize to life with superheroes and when he finds out about a plan that could put his father and his step-family in danger, he’s strangely torn. Damien’s always wanted to be a villian, but he also wants to protect his friends and family.
My Thoughts: The story is told in the first person viewpoint of Damien and the setting is a fictional city – Golden City, where tourists flock hoping to run into a superhero or a supervillain. It is ultimately about the choices that people make in order to become who they are. In Damien’s case, his choices determine whether he will become a superhero or a supervillain. He has the genes for both, and the “X” that appeared on his thumb as a result can turn into an “H” (for hero) or a “V” (for villain) based on what he does.
This book made me laugh. Damien has a quick wit which he actively uses in surprising ways. He’s never got the lower hand for long, and when he’s annoyed at someone, he uses his smarts to get them. It was pretty funny how he kept needling his parents about their embarrassing hook-up at inopportune moments, or how he dealt with school bullies. I found myself looking forward to reading this book when I had to put it down because of the humor, especially in the first part of the book – Damien’s disbelief and how he handled the change in his life tickled me. Once he was more settled, the shenanigans Damien gets himself into with his sidekick (more about her later), were funny as well but didn’t entertain me as much as the first part of the book.
The humor is irreverent and not exactly a kid’s humor. Damien is less innocent than I was at sixteen (which I suppose isn’t hard). He’s comfortable with sexual situations and there’s a sort of love triangle in this book between Damien and two very different girls. The first is his ex-girlfriend, Kat, who is a supervillain who has the power to shapeshift. They broke up on his last birthday when he found her with another guy, but she seems sorry for that and they both have feelings for each other (they’ve gotten closer over the past year), although Damien can’t bring himself to forgive her. The second girl is Sarah – a strange girl in Damien’s new school who is a master inventor and wants to be his superhero sidekick. One girl assumes he is a supervillain, one assumes he’s a superhero, and Damien plays the part each expects because he doesn’t want either to know about his half-hero, half-villain status.
These complex relationships with Damien and these girls, along with the relationship he develops with his father’s family (not an easy path), adds depth to the story that I wasn’t expecting but really liked. The sibling rivalry and fights that Damien has with his half-sibling closest to his age (Amelia, who is 15), was particularly endearing. They dislike each other at first sight but work their way through their differences. I thought the “teenage boy versus his younger sister” dynamics were cute and very much like how siblings work. I also liked Damien’s commentary on how people have preconceptions of villians and heroes and how that influences how people respond to him.
Overall: An enjoyable read that blends humor, comic book tropes, and a teenage boy’s coming of age to produce a story with subtle depths. I liked it.
The Book Smugglers – 7 (leaning towards an 8) – [I agreed with Ana's review]
Steph Su Reads – 4 out of 5 (“The gem of this novel is Damien’s voice. A perfect balance of snark, sincerity, and your typical adolescent male stupidity”)
SciFi Chick – “pure fun from beginning to end.”