I’m not supposed to be a boy.
Sometimes I want to climb on a table in the cafeteria and scream it out at the top of my lungs. There’s been a horrible mistake. I’m trapped on the wrong side. i’m a boy. I won’t be a man. I’m a girl. I’m a girl.
I AM A GIRL.
So if the premise of this book is not clear from that introductory piece, April Daniel’s novel follows our transgender protagonist, Danny, who after witnessing the death of the city’s favourite superhero Dreadnought, is bestowed with his powers. The best thing about this is that, despite the flight and the miraculous strength, Danny’s body changes to match what he has always wanted to be. For the previous Dreadnought’s it’s been a couple of inches taller or more muscular, but for Danny it’s to be a girl.
And that’s about as far as I can really go with the main plot of this story without giving a huge amount away. It’s a superhero origin story with a transgender lead and I wanted to love this so much more than I did in the end. I won’t say that I hated it, because I really didn’t. I thought there were some scenes in this book which were well written and entertaining, such as those where Danny is trying out her powers for the first time and comes across an aeroplane. I’ll leave that to you to read for yourself because that is really worth reading.
But from there it felt like almost too much was crammed into this one book. For the first book in the Nemesis series, I expected a much slower build, and some characters I could really connect with. I felt that was where it lacked a lot of depth. We meet a huge range of characters, some with abilities and even one who claims to know magic, and I couldn’t really get to know any of them really closely. I loved each and every one however, not for who they were at all times but the way they were written. Even so, they did things at times that didn’t make sense for their characters and it all started to feel a little farfetched.
That’s the genre though, right? Superhero books are not written with the intention of being gritty and realistic, but I felt that a book dealing with a transgender teen should have had more grounded elements within in it. Danny’s dad, for instance, is a transphobic character, with no appealing qualities at all. He has no redeeming moments in this novel. And her mother is weak and enables Danny’s dad to do what he does in this book. They’re not respectful people, which I understand is a reaction transgender people may encounter, but I feel that the way Danny was written encouraged young trans readers to see themselves as disgusting because Danny listens to what her father tells her. There are pages of Danny tearing herself down and of her father’s shouting at her. This reinforces the negativity that transgender people may be trying to escape from reading a novel. I understand that this might be to do with the use of first person narration as how Danny sees her interaction with her parents but it does come across as quite abrasive considering the fantastical elements surrounding it.
Overall, this novel was important. I’m not sure how inclined I am to read on with the Nemesis series after reading this book but I am certain that this was a fun read. I was disappointed in places but overall it was well written with engaging characters I just wanted to know a little bit more about.