[REVIEW] Dreadnought, by April Daniels

(Buy it from Bookshop)

Danny Tozer is an awkward teenage girl surviving the worst part of high school. One day, while hiding behind the mall and painting her toenails, trying desperately to grab a few moments of peace, a superhero fight breaks out overhead. In Danny’s world, these aren’t unusual. What is unusual is the defeat of the world’s greatest superhero Dreadnought, who falls at Danny’s feet, mortally wounded. With his dying breath, he hands her his mantle, a mystical object that not only gifts its wearer with superpowers, but remakes them physically into their ideal self — bigger, stronger, handsomer.

In Danny’s case, the mantle makes her cisgender.

Yep. Not only is Port City’s newest hero a shy teenage lesbian, she’s also a closeted trans girl and has transphobic parents. Becoming her ideal self causes problems that superpowers can’t solve–especially when it turns out that some of the most powerful heroines on Earth are TERFs, her best friend is an undercover incel, and the Nemesis is coming–whatever that is.

Dreadnought is wild, y’all. I’ve never read anything quite like it before and while I’m not gagging for the rest of the series, I’m pretty sure I’m going to read it eventually. It’s a really well-balanced blend of eye-popping hero action, YA musing, and sensitive coming-of-age moments. The author is trans herself, and the way she writes Danny is a great example of how important #ownvoices writing is. I often find trans characters written by straight authors a bit emblematic or tokenized into trauma parades. But like most YA teens, Danny is all inner life rather than outward symbols, and I loved that. She really is just going about her business when her wildest dreams come true–with a catch. Her transness is not weird to her, but her superpowers are. It’s both funny and infuriating when some characters see it the other way around.

There’s some really good action in this book too. Watching Danny come into her superskills is edge-of-your-seat exciting, and her mentor–another teenage hero–is also pretty badass in a fight. This is a superhero story, not a “trans people display trauma for cis entertainment” story, and it lives up to its potential.

4 stars and all the nail polish from the mall to Dreadnought.

(This one was a surprise, beautiful people–I wasn’t sure what to expect between these pages, but I liked what I found. If you want to check it out for yourself, consider purchasing it from the Equal Opportunity Bookshop, but please know that we have an affiliate relationship and if you click/purchase a commission may be earned.)

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