Dreadnought (Nemesis #1) by April Daniels
Release date: January 24, 2017
Themes: Superheroes, LGBTQIA+, urban fantasy, transgender main character, #ownvoices
My Rating: ★★★★★
Summary: 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.
My Review: I was sent this book as an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I was so excited to receive this book, and it did not disappoint. A transgender superhero? This book is everything I always needed, without ever even realizing it. This kind of progress of representation in books (particularly books targeted towards a younger audience) is so important, and it makes me so happy to know that progress is indeed being made. Not only was the main character transgender, but several of the side characters were people of color, or members of the LGBTQIA+ community. This book has one of the most diverse casts I’ve ever read, and it was done beautifully.
This book wasn’t amazing just because it was diverse; it was good for so many more reasons. Daniels’s writing is spectacular. I was a little apprehensive about reading a book with so much action, because I feel like superhero stories tend to translate better through film or at least comics/graphic novels. I had no problem with that in this book. The action sequences were executed masterfully, and I never felt like I didn’t know what was going on, or who was doing what.
I also loved this book because of the characters. Daniels did an amazing job of giving each set of character their own set of morals and ethical opinions that they believed in. Every single character knew exactly what they believed in, and while I didn’t necessarily agree with all (or even most) of their morals, I appreciated that Daniels was so thorough. I think it’s really important that not every character reacted the same way to Danny’s situation and story. Some people were completely accepting, others were not. Everyone has their own reasons for their opinions, and I really liked that no matter what my thoughts were on a character’s opinion, I knew exactly why they thought what they did. I also think this variety was a realistic representation of the real world (though as a disclaimer I will never feel qualified to even try to judge what is a “realistic” experience for someone who is transgender) . There are some pretty toxic opinions and people out there, but there are also people out there who don’t bat an eye, and are completely supportive and accepting.
One of my favorite things about this book was the seamless fusion of Danny’s life as a superhero, and her life as a teenager. She saves the world (or tries to), but she also is a teenager who goes to school and does her homework and studies for tests. I was really happy to see that, despite all of the changes in her life, Danny didn’t just give up any semblance of a normal teenager’s life. As much as she wants to help people, she also has her own life to live, and she won’t give that up without a fight.
I also appreciated that this book doesn’t glorify violence. While the battle scenes were epic, the casualties were acknowledged with dignity, and there was never an acceptance of violence simply for the sake of violence, even on the villainous side. Every step is taken to avoid unnecessary violence, and when it is required, it is done with a simple sense of duty, rather than an idea of vengeance or pleasure.
This book is the perfect blend of action, mystery, heroism, and contemporary life. It instantly became one of my all-time favorites, and I can’t wait to see where the next book takes our eclectic cast of characters.