Thanks to NetGalley and Diversion Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Synopsis: 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 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.
I’m going to be upfront and say that while Dreadnought isn’t a perfect book, it’s an important one, especially given world events right now. As the story begins, 15-year-old Daniel is hiding the fact that she’s transgender from everyone. The problem is that this secret life is getting to her so much that she’s resorted to painting her toenails in an alley behind a store just so she can feel somewhat normal. And this is when the superhero known as Dreadnought falls out of the sky and as he lays dying, passes on his powers to her. What’s completely unexpected is in addition to the usual talents like super strength and flying, Danny has now physically become what she’s dreamed about her entire life–a girl. Yep! That’s right. Say hello to Danielle! The best part of this book is how Danny copes with not only her newfound powers, and bringing down the sinister Utopia, but also with literally having her dream come true, only to have it turn more into a nightmare. To say that Danny’s parents are less than thrilled at having a daughter instead of a son is a bit of an understatement. Danny’s father is particularly horrible and verbally abusive. But then he was even before Danny transitioned. Her mother is more an enabler than abusive, but they’re both extremely unlikable and one-dimensional. I have to give Danny a lot of credit because she stands up for herself and gives them multiple chances to come to terms with her being transgender. More than they deserve actually. Sadly, they’re not the only ones she faces prejudice from. One of the adult superheroes who’s supposed to be a mentor is also a self-righteous, bigoted piece of garbage. Ahem. Sorry. Obviously there were characters in this story that ticked me off. Anyway, I never felt like I really got to know the other superheroes and I wish they had been fleshed out more. Danny does wind up with a partner, a classmate who has her own secret identity and goes by the moniker of Calamity. I loved her because not only does she accept Danny, but she’s stubborn and loyal, and their relationship is the second best thing about the book. Calamity has her own issues, being Latina and having faced bigots of her own, she distrusts superheroes and law enforcement of any kind. By the end of the book it’s obvious that these two are meant to be together. Whether it’s as friends or something more will have to be determined in subsequent books. The world-building could definitely be improved upon. There’s quite a few info-dumps, and for the most part there’s more telling rather than showing. The pacing was a little uneven as well. The beginning started off with a bang, and then it slowed down midway through while Danny dealt with her parents and tried to decide if she even wants to accept the mantle of Dreadnought. The villain, Utopia, never even really comes into play until the latter part of the book. That said, there’s a neat little twist regarding her character and someone new in Danny’s life who she trusts, so that was enjoyable surprise. Overall, Dreadnought has some flaws, but it’s obvious that April Daniels is a talented writer, so I think these can easily be overcome in the second book. The main reason why I gave this 4 stars though is because of Danny. It’s her voice that rings loud and clear throughout the entire narrative. Yes at times she’s scared and unsure, but her determination to not let her fear control her is what makes her such an inspiring character. While the world-building and some of the secondary characters need some tweaking, the fact the MC is a trans-lesbian teen who comes out on top despite abuse and intolerance from people around her, makes this a worthwhile read for both older teens as well as adults. I will definitely be scooping up the sequel as soon as it’s released.