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Dreadnought, Nemesis Book One
by April Daniels
Diversion Books, $14.99, 276 pp
Published: January 2017

I couldn’t find a doggone thing about this wonderful new writer.  This may be a debut book.  And it’s a whopper!  Any story that has a superhero in it will attract me like ants to honey.

Danny is a girl stuck in a boy’s body until the day the superhero Dreadnought dies in front of her and gifts her with his power.  One of the features of Dreadnought’s power (Danny is the third to wear the mantle) is that the inheritor gets the body they always wanted.  Danny, of course, wanted to be a girl.

Now the fifteen-year-old has to deal with coming out to her homophobic father, deal with her best friend who thinks he has an inside road to dating Danny (and her new boobs), and deal with the local superhero union – some of which welcome her, and some who don’t.

Her father is determined to hide her until he can figure out how to change her back into a boy all the while blaming Danny for not being the boy she should have been.  Danny has some serious self-esteem issues.  Then she figures out that one of her classmates is actually a greycape – someone with powers who skirts the side of the law.  Blackcapes are, of course, bad guys.  The local Legion are all whitecapes – they are expected to display the highest ethical behavior – which turns out not to be exactly so.  Her classmate, Sarah, adopts a cowgirl persona while patrolling the neighborhood streets, vigilante-style.  Her contention is that the whitecapes don’t bother themselves with anything less than a supervillain or a planet-killing asteroid.  Sarah, aka Calamity, wants to help the common folk, and this really appeals to Danny; especially after the less-than-supportive welcome she got from the Legion.

Danny feels the weight of Dreadnought’s power and desperately wants to find a way to be worthy so she decides to hunt the cyborg villain Utopia who killed the last Dreadnought.  With Calamity’s help, they come very close and nearly die in the process while the city takes a real bruising.

Wow, this was really an amazing story; I just couldn’t put it down.  I don’t have an idea of what a transgender person feels but Danny’s internal dialogue and explanations seemed to ring true.  She certainly was able to describe schoolyard bullying and parental abuse – many of us can recognize those.   One of the coolest things the author did was name their superheroing as “caping.”  I love that word. In fact, I think she only used the word superhero once in the whole book.  The plot was two-fold:  Danny coming to terms with her change and saving the world.  This is as superhero as it comes – what’s not to like?  Since the book is numbered as Book One in the title, there will be, obviously, more to come.  I’m looking forward to it.  And I would highly recommend it to teens.   ~~ Catherine Book

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