Disappointing: Dreadnought by April Daniels

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 that 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.

Source: GoodReads

Out of all the books I had in my January TBR list, I think I was the most excited for Dreadnought which was a superhero book featuring a trans main character.  That in itself had so much potential and it was an #ownvoices book which made the prospect of it feel even better.  The sad truth of it was, when it came down to it Dreadnought just wasn’t  a good book.  So much, I DNF’d it.

Before I go into my criticisms though I want to praise the book for what it did do right: the premises.

The premises was just awesome.  A trans character being a superhero and fighting crime, talk about empowering.  I had great hopes for this one especially since it’s not often we have a book featuring a non-WASP character that isn’t an “issue” oriented book.

However….well, this book didnt’ focus that much on superheroes.

Mostly it was about Danielle coming out as trans in probably one of the most awful ways possible-her body changes in the first chapter of the story so she’s sort of forced to reveal her true self like it or not.  And unfortunately, pretty much everyone acts like a MAGA asshole.

I kid you not.

Her father is transphobic and her mother is just an enabler.  Which would be fine for the book if there was anyone that Danny could talk too.  But her best friend is a perverted dick and other than a new girl where I think-hope-something might be brewing between those two she really has no one to talk to and it sucks becuase girl needs to have someone to lend an ear too.

And I get it, trans people often are isolated it’s a sad reality which why having books like this is important, but it just angered me so much and I really wanted there to be some mentor or someone else Danny could talk too.  Even a trans support group would be nice.

But nope.

The superhero aspect of the book was extremely weak.  The powers and origin stories are explained in paragraphs at most and there’s really not much to them.  Even fighting crime is sort of boring.  And of course, we get the obligatory asshole superhero transphobic character too.

Really, I would say that a good 80% of the cast in this book were transphobic or pervy.

It is not good.

The vague world building with hodgepodge to non-existent plot made the book hardly enjoyable to the point where I reluctantly DNF’d it.

Which I’m actually sort of upset about because again that premises.

Sigh.  I feel like this book might be interesting enough if you’re not trigger sensitive to extreme bigotry but really everything is only halfway done.  It really would’ve been nice had this book lived up to half of the potential that it had.

Overall Rating: A DNF.

When Bad MC’s Happen: The Inside of Out by Jen Marie Thorne

Meg Cabot meets Glee in this breezy, hilarious, deceptively smart YA about privilege, pretense, and realizing that every story needs a hero. Sometimes it’s just not you.

When her best friend Hannah comes out the day before junior year, Daisy is so ready to let her ally flag fly that even a second, way more blindsiding confession can’t derail her smiling determination to fight for gay rights.

Before you can spell LGBTQIA, Daisy’s leading the charge to end their school’s antiquated ban on same-sex dates at dances—starting with homecoming. And if people assume Daisy herself is gay? Meh, so what. It’s all for the cause.

What Daisy doesn’t expect is for “the cause” to blow up—starting with Adam, the cute college journalist whose interview with Daisy for his university paper goes viral, catching fire in the national media. #Holy #cats.

With the story spinning out of control, protesters gathering, Hannah left in the dust of Daisy’s good intentions, and Daisy’s mad attraction to Adam feeling like an inconvenient truth, Daisy finds herself caught between her bold plans, her bad decisions, and her big fat mouth.

Source: GoodReads

God, this is such a hard one to review. Because if this book did not contain its one—almost fatal flaw—it would be getting a much higher rating. The writing is all there, it has an important message about real life issues, the side characters are for the most part well fleshed out and do not seem cliché.

What’s the main problem then?

The main character.

I just wanted to slap this girl silly, so many times throughout the reading process.

And yeah, I get it, Jen wanted to show us character growth, but by the time Daisy started to finally get a reality check I had had enough of her.

I think everyone save for maybe two characters wanted to slap her at this point.

So, what exactly is my beef with Daisy?

Lots of things actually. Maybe part of my problem with her is that I’ve met people like her in real life- a.k.a. flakes. The way she’d get these big ideas make hoopla over them promptly gave up on them, gave me a headache. Anyone who has dealt with a flake is going to get annoyed with this behavior, especially if you’re a type A personality who really gets annoyed with people who break their promises like yours truly.

But it’s not just Daisy being a huge flake that annoys me. To be honest, that is a realistic character fault. An annoying one, but realistic especially for a teen and for anyone I’m going to NOT hang out with. What really annoyed me about this character was how oblivious she was to anyone else’s feelings. She practically outs a character on national television, not cool Daisy. She also represents herself and has a complete misinterpretation of what asexual is just to stay in a club.

Note, people who are of asexual orientation, this book is going to turn you into a Book Hulk so you might want to avoid.

True, I thought said club could try to be a little more inclusive, but I totally get why they would just want a safe place where ill informed privileged morons like Daisy couldn’t intrude.

The thing is even though I despised the MC and never grew to like her, this wasn’t a bad book. Like I said, the writing was quite good and engaging. The story, while it could’ve been stronger in another viewpoint—like I don’t know, Hannah’s—was still important and relevant.

It is, however, not as good as the author’s debut which was on my top ten list last year—winning best debut.

In the end, I’m sort of on the fence about suggesting this one. While it has some important and relevant themes and doesn’t get too, too preachy, the MC is truly insufferable. On the plus side there is a diverse set of characters and there are nice little Easter eggs for fans of The Wrong Side of Right—I wouldn’t say it’s a companion sequel though, the characters don’t make that big of an appearance.

Overall, I tethered between giving this on a C+ or a B-. It really did make me cringe a lot, but in the end I decided on B- (or a three star rating on GoodReads) mainly because I appreciated what the author did, she just sort of failed with this obnoxious character.

As for Daisy, girl, you fail.

Good Issue Book BUT: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Source: GoodReads

I looked forward to this one for awhile.  Transgendered issues have gotten more media attention in the past year, than they have in a very long time.  It’s probably in part due to Caitlyn Jenner which in turn has sensationalize the issues surrounding trans individuals, which has lead to some ill researched legislation that has been proposed and passed in some states.

While it has been great that trans issues have been getting more awareness as of late, the coverage of it has been particularly skewed which was why I was glad that there was a YA book touching upon it

The thing is, If I Was Your Girl was not about such an important issue, it would’ve been one of those books that I would’ve been sort of meh about.  In a lot of ways it reminded me of None of the Above which discussed its issue-intersex-in a informative type of way, but when it came to the actual storyline and side characters it wasn’t the greatest.

And that’s kind of sad, but at the same time sort of understandable.

When it comes to books that discuss an issue such as being transgendered in the case of If I Was Your Girl, you know that the storyline is going to be limited to a degree.  I think that what made me so excited about this book before readage was I thought it was going to be more  or less about a character that had already transitioned and was more or less functioning as a transitioned teen a la Jazz Jennings on her TLC show, but that was not the case.

While it was true that Amanda had transitioned physically, she was still dealing with fallout emotionally from transitioning and the book often used flashbacks to show her transition.

I didn’t mind this, but again it limited the scope of the story and made it more of an issue piece like None of the Above which again isn’t a bad thing but makes the book more educational to uninformed masses.

However, I think that’s one of things that I find that a lot of QUILTBAG books miss is that they make the books more issue oriented than identifiable books and I get why they have to be issue oriented.  The media often misconstrues a lot of different aspects about these individuals lives and it’s important that young readers who don’t exactly know who they are yet, be able to see books that deal with these issues.  But I also would really like these books to be more identifiable to its readers who identify to its narrator.  With If I Was Your Girl, I thought it would be more of a YA romantic contemporary with a twist, but it wasn’t.  And while that didn’t make the book bad, it did make me a little sad that society hasn’t reached a place where there can be a book about a trans character where the focus of the book isn’t about her being trans.

Issue book aside, I did like how this book presented trans individual issues for someone who is completely uninformed like yours truly.  I feel like this book should be introduced to anyone who wants to know more about people who are transgendered.  It does discuss different aspects over the situation perfectly.  Yes, Amanda’s transition is a little bit more effortless than most people’s, but the author addresses that in a note at the end of the story.

I also have to give props to Russo for Amanda’s character.  She felt completely realistic and the flashbacks before and during her transition made me cry.

The family elements also rang true, though I found her dad’s turn around in the end a little too fast.

What I didn’t like was a lot of the side characters.  I found most of them, save for Bee and Virginia to be pretty forgettable.  The boyfriend character was sort of a wash for me.  There was always something superficial about his relationship with Amanda and it just didn’t work for me.

Do I recommend this book: yes.  But was it as spectacular as I thought it would be: no.  Still, a good debut and I hope that Russo continues to write books about trans characters.

Overall Rating: A B.

Evil Oreo References: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Source: GoodReads

If you can’t eat Oreos you might want to avoid reading this book because they’re referenced so much that after you read it that’s all you’ll want to do eat Oreos and watch You’ve Got Mail (which reminds this book a lot.  Except this book is better because it features diversity in multi-facets.

Let’s talk about Simon.  While the story dealt with him coming out to his friends and families, it wasn’t a message book by any means.  That’s a huge thing for me in finding good diverse books.  I don’t want them to be message books because honestly, I don’t want to be taught some grand lesson.  I just want a book that explores someone’s life who’s not a WASP.   Although, occasionally I have read a couple of good message books.

The thing is Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is at it’s heart a fluffy contemporary.  And it’s so hard trying to find a light and fluffy book starring non-straight characters.  So, having something like this available in stores is huge.

And it’s so good.  Simon’s voice shines through throughout the entire book.  He’s hilarious.  Endearing.   And I like how while there is a romance, the focus of the story is on finding yourself and friendship.  In fact, the romance might’ve been the books weakest element even though it was pretty cute.  I really liked the set up on the romance and how you had to guess who Blue was.  As I said before if they were having one of those damn comparison blurbs they’d probably say that this book was like You’ve Got Mail. 

However, the actual interactions outside of the email relationship were a bit weird and while fairly realistic there was just something about it that felt a little off-I’m not going to go into much more for spoiler reasons.

As I said before, the strong points of the novel involved the relationship between Simon and his family and friends.  It all felt very realistic and put together, and I enjoyed the fact that the friends had relationship drama that did not involve Simon.

If you want to read something that’s a little different and fluffy, I recommend giving this one a read.

Overall Rating: A B+