Superman: Dawnbreaker (Matt de la Peña)

Superman: Dawnbreaker is the fourth DC Icons novel, this one written by Matt de la Peña.
Finished on: 13.7.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other DC Icons novels.]

First, let me just say that I wasn’t aware of the sexual harrassment accusations against de la Peña, or I would have steered clear of the book and definitely not have spent any money on it. I only just learned about it when I googled him for this review. So, please think carefully before you throw any money at him.

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Clark Kent would be a normal teenager in Smallville – if it wasn’t for the fact that he has superhuman powers. He has always had them, not knowing why or how, but now they’re getting stronger. As does his urge to help, even though heroics run counter to his parents’ plea that he keeps his powers under wraps. When he hears about people disappearing from Smallville from his classmate Gloria Alvarez, he asks his best friend and school reporter Lana Lang for help figuring out what is going on.

Superman: Dawnbreaker is a slightly disappointing take on Superman, I thought. The character’s potential remained untapped for me, although I did appreciate it that the book talks a lot about racism and the precarious situation of (Mexican) immigrants.

The book cover shwoing a young boy with glasses wearing a red hoodie and a backpack in front of a field that is hit by lightning. In front of him is the Superman symbol.
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Fat Chance, Charlie Vega (Crystal Maldonado)

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is the first novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 8.7.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia, diet culture, racism

Plot:
Charlie and her parents used to be a good team, but since her dad died, her mom has gotten obsessed with her own weight – and with Charlie’s. Constantly leaving her diet suggestions, Charlie feels that her mother is never happy with her. It feels like the only person who is firmly in her corner is Amelia – who is everything that Charlie is not: beautiful. Athletic. Popular. In a relationship with a cute boy. When Brian takes an interest in Charlie, instead of easier, things get even more complicated for her.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is an absolutely lovely, wonderful and cute book that I wished I could have read when I was a (fat) teenager. But better now than never!

The book cover showing a fat, Brown girl with glasses in front of a few flowers.
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Hush (Dylan Farrow)

Hush is the first novel in the Hush series by Dylan Farrow.
Finished on: 2.7.2021

Plot:
Shae lives at the edge of a small village with her mother. They are just about tolerated in town since Shae’s brother died of the Blot, a highly contagious illness transmitted by ink which is why reading and writing are outlawed. The only people who don’t seem to fear that Shae might still be carrying the Blot are her best friend Fiona and Mads, the neighbor boy who may be more. But not even with them Shae has shared the fact that something is wrong with her, that her dreams and her embroidery are bleeding into reality. When the Bards come to town, Shae hopes to receive their blessing and healing, just like the entire town. While the town receives rain from them, Shae isn’t so lucky. And after they are gone, Shae’s mother is murdered, leaving her without hope and with very few options. So she risks it all and travels to the High House, where the Bards live, hoping to get help from them.

Hush is a pretty good read, albeit not deviating far from young adult fantasy standards. As it is being touted as a feminist book, I was expecting a little more from it in that regard, but I did like reading it overall.

The book cover showing a starry sky over the ruins of a castle overlooking the sea.
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Felix Ever After (Kacen Callender)

Felix Ever After is a novel by Kacen Callender.
Finished on: 25.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Felix is a student at an art school, hoping to get into a good college to pursue his art further. He therefore attends summer school with his best friend Ezra. He is also Black, trans, queer and desperate to fall in love for the first time, but secretly afraid that he has one marginalized identity too many. And maybe he is not all that sure about his identities anyway. Before he figures anything out, though, Felix arrives in school one morning to find pre-transitions photos of himself and his deadname plastered all over the school gallery. Suspecting his classmate and rival Declan, Felix hatches a plan to make him pay. But that plan leads him somewhere else entirely.

Felix Ever After is wonderful. Simply wonderful. It’s the kind of novel that queer people everywhere should grow up with, really. It made my heart swell in the best of ways.

The book cover showing an illustration of a Black guy in a tank top. His arms are covered in small tattoos, he is wearing a flower crown and underneath the tank top, we can just make out scars from top surgery.
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The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness)

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first novel in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness.
Finished on: 19.2.2021

Content Note: cissexism, animal abuse, colonialism

Plot:
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown, a settlement town on another planet. When the human settlers arrived, they waged a war against the original inhabitants of the planet and they struck back with a weaponized virus that killed all women and girls, and gave the men and animals telepathy. Todd grew up knowing nothing but the Noise of the men and animals around him, and as the youngest settler is just about to reach adulthood. But one day he is out and about with his dog Manchee and finds a quiet spot in the Noise. Disturbed, he returns home where his guardians Ben and Cillian turn his entire life upside down, send him away and hint at the fact that Todd doesn’t know the whole story. From one moment to the next, Todd finds himself on the run, but how can you run when everyone can hear your thoughts?

I bought The Knife of Never Letting Go many years ago and never got around to reading it. Now with a movie adaptation coming out, I decided to give it a go, although by now I had started to see the premise of the book very critically. Given how much I loved A Monster Calls, I didn’t want to give up on it prematurely, but maybe I should have. The book really didn’t work for me.

The book cover showing a red knife on black background.

[SPOILERS]

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Catwoman: Soulstealer (Sarah J. Maas)

Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas is the third of the DC Icons novels.
Finished on: 4.10.2019
[Here are my reviews of the other novels in the loose series.]

Plot:
Selina Kyle does her best to take care of her sister Maggie who has cystic fibrosis. To cover her medical expenses, Selina fights for mob boss Carmine Falcone. Despite her best efforts, though, Maggie is taken by Child Protection Services and Selina finds herself with Talia of the League of Assassins who offers her a chance to expunge her criminal record – if she works for them. When Selina accepts, it puts her right in the middle of the city’s rich people – and into the sights of Batwing.

Catwoman: Soulstealer is my favorite of the DC Icons novels so far. It’s cute and fun, and even though the ending didn’t quite work for me, I was overall happy with it.

The book cover showing a young woman wearing cat ears behind a safe door with a cat logo on it.
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Scar (Alice Broadway)

Scar is the final novel in the Skin Books trilogy by Alice Broadway.
Finished on: 23.7.2019
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the trilogy.]

Plot:
Leora has returned from Featherstone to Saintstone, only to find herself captured by Mayor Longsight. As the rift between the two villages and communities grows ever bigger, Leora becomes a symbol for both of them, while desperately trying to keep either from inflicting any more damage on each other. And she should also protect the people she loves and who love her – even if she isn’t too sure who that may be.

Scar is a nice finish to the trilogy, even if it felt a little hurried. It may be the weakest of the three novels, but it works.

The book cover that is covered in purple tattoo-like markings, showing two birds, a snake, a fox, butterflies and a girl in white instead of red, stretching her arm toward one of the birds.
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Spark (Alice Broadway)

Spark is the second novel in the Skin Books trilogy by Alice Broadway.
Finished on: 18.7.2019
[Here’s my review of the first book.]

Plot:
After the recent revelations about her world and herself, Leora is questioning everything. It appears that everything she ever knew is wrong. Saintstone’s Mayor Longsight hopes to use Leora to spy on the blanks in Featherstone, but Leora is not so sure that she can do it. Or that she should. But she can’t really say no, either. And so she leaves the only town she ever knew to try to learn more.

Spark is a really good sequel, a quick read that kept me engaged and gives Leora space to grow in a very understandable way. I liked it.

The book cover that is covered in red tattoo-like markings, showing, among other things, a bird, a squirrel, a feather and a girl in white instead of red, stretching her arm toward the bird.
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Ink (Alice Broadway)

Ink is the first novel in the Skin Books trilogy by Alice Broadway.
Finished on: 23.5.2019

Plot:
In Saintstone, everyone is tattooed and every important life event is recorded in tattoos. When a person dies, their skin is preserved in a book that chronicles and pays hommage to their life. This thought gives Leora, who dreams of becoming an inker herself, much peace when her own father dies. But then she glimpses a mark that should not be there, something that marks him as a traitor. With that realization, Leora’s entire life starts to unravel.

Ink is not exactly subtle in its metaphors about surveillance states and populism. It doesn’t need to be to be a good read – and that it certainly was. Even if you aren’t as into tattoos as I am.

The book cover that is covered in bronze-colored tattoo-like markings, showing, among other things, an owl, an eagle, a feather and a girl in white instead of bronze.
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Tess of the Road (Rachel Hartman)

Tess of the Road is a companion novel to the Seraphina duology by Rachel Hartman.
Finished on: 9.5.2019
[Here are my reviews of the other novels in the series.]

Plot:
Tess doesn’t have a very good standing with her family. Tasked with helping to secure a husband for her twin sister Jeanne, Tess is often either ignored or blamed for just about everything. After she gets into an altercation with her brother-in-law Jacomo on Jeanne’s wedding night, she loses her place in the family. She finds refuge with her older sister Seraphina for a few days, while she figures out what to do next. There aren’t all that many options. Encouraged by Seraphina, Tess takes the riskier option, though, and does not join the convent, but rather goes on an adventure.

Tess of the Road impressed me a lot. It deals with very complex (feminist) issues in an easy to understand manner that doesn’t oversimplify. And it is still interesting and an extremely readable text that touched me emotionally as well. It’s fantastic.

The book cover showing a dragon with its head pointed toward a small, fenal figure. In the dragon's shape we can see a mountain village.
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