Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Release date: November 18 2014
Source: eARC from publisher via Edelweiss
The nitty-gritty: A clever story that pokes fun at superhero mythology, with some very funny moments, but unfortunately lacked the sizzle and excitement that I was expecting.
So I went on a walk with Blaze, my savior. The man sure to deliver the antidote if I’d been poisoned, who’d personally pulled me out of more fiery buildings than I cared to count and, on one notable occasion, a live volcano. He waited for me to take the elevator down after closing the window. And we walked, silently. Mercifully, the streets were bare, save for us, so nobody gawked at Hostage Girl and her own appointed superhero.
Warning: there may be some spoilers in this review. I just don’t care. I need to speak about the things that bothered me…
I love reading stories about superheroes, especially when the author does something different with the genre. Lexie Dunne gives us a world where superheroes and villains are celebrities, and the general public follows their exciting kidnappings and rescues in real-time on a GPS-like website called the Domino. This story had so much potential, and it certainly sounds good on paper, but it ultimately felt as if all the individual awesome ideas just didn’t gel together. Even worse, it ends on a very abrupt cliffhanger, as if the author suddenly realized she had reached her word limit. But despite this, there were some very funny scenes, and Dunne has a gift for very believable dialog.
The story takes place in Chicago, where superheroes patrol the skies and keep the city safe from supervillains. Gail is a young woman who slaves away at a job she hates, while waiting for the next villain to abduct her. Gail is famously known as “Hostage Girl” because she’s been kidnapped so many times, then rescued by hottie superhero Blaze. Everyone suspects that Girl’s boyfriend Jeremy is actually Blaze, but not even Girl knows for sure. (I’m calling her “Girl” in this review, because that’s what all the other characters call her.)
When Jeremy tells her he’s taking a job in New York City, and then Blaze decides to leave as well, the kidnappings suddenly stop. Until one day, a villain named Dr. Mobius grabs Girl and takes her back to his secret lab. Girl is depressed that no one is coming to rescue her, until she realizes that the drugs Dr. Mobius is pumping into her are changing her body and giving her super strength. Before long, Girl escapes and winds up in a secret complex called the Davenport Industries Superpowers Complex, a training and living center for superheroes. As the doctors unravel the mysteries of what the drugs are doing to Girl, she begins her new life as a superhero.
Let’s start with the positives. This was a fun story, and I loved the humor. For example, superheroes guard their origin stories carefully and only tell them to close friends. A blogger named Naomi dishes about the secret lives of superheroes on her blog “Crap About Capes.” And I enjoyed the “behind the scenes” look at what makes a superhero tick, as we follow Girl and her friends going about their lives in the Complex.
I loved the whole idea of the Superpowers Complex, an underground hidden city where superheroes can chill with their own kind, train, and learn the superhero ropes (if they are new, like Girl). It’s here that Girl discovers the identity of her favorite superheroes, since they don’t wear masks while staying at the Complex. I found that idea charming!
I mostly enjoyed the character of Girl, and she takes all the changes in her life in stride. But I wasn’t crazy about how resigned she seems about being called “Hostage Girl.” She’s almost proud of the fact, and the kidnappings are so common that they’ve practically become a normal part of her life. My feminist side wanted to wring her neck and say “Snap out it! You don’t need a man to rescue you!”
Romance doesn’t play a big part in the story, but Girl does seem to be torn between several men. Although she’s bitter about Jeremy dumping her, she develops some complicated feelings for Blaze once she reaches the Complex. And a third guy named Cooper catches her eye. Overall, the romance was kept on the back-burner where it belonged, in my opinion.
My main problem with Superheroes Anonymous was that the plot was so convoluted and scattered that it felt as if it never went anywhere. Once Girl becomes a superhero-in-training, there are pages and pages where she does nothing but train (with a very sadistic woman named Angélica), eat (since she’s been pumped full of an unknown drug by Dr. Mobius, Girl’s been constantly hungry), and worry about her new powers. This section was downright boring, and I wanted an editor to go back and make the story a) more streamlined and b) more exciting. Angélica makes her eat some kind of protein bar that she calls “crap cakes,” and Girl eats a ton of these nasty things. Not only does she eat a lot of them, but we, the readers, are told about each one she forces down her throat. Enough already of the crap cakes!
A couple of plot points made no sense at all, and both involve the drugs that Dr. Mobius forces on Girl. First, ugh, forcing Girl to take drugs just doesn’t fit the light, humorous tone of the story. And then he tells her he’s given her an addiction so that she will have to come back to him in order to get a fix, or die! (Presumably after she’s escaped.) Then—and this is the spoiler, so close you eyes if you don’t want to know—Girl finds out that the drug is giving her cancer, but that’s ok, because at the same time it is curing her of the cancer! WTF??? People, I just can’t. Girl goes through the last half of the book worried that she’s got cancer, but actually not too worried because the doctors say that eventually her body will cure itself. *keels over from too much confusion* The idea is actually pretty cool, but it just wasn’t executed very well.
So, Superheroes Anonymous gets three stars for its humor and potential, but I can’t really recommend it. (Although a lot of readers seem to love it on Goodreads!) It definitely had some funny, cute moments, and the potential was there, but in my opinion, it needed polishing to make it a cohesive story. The superhero field is starting to get crowded (which is a good thing!), but in order to stand out for me, you’re going to have to step up your game.
Thanks to Harper Voyager Impulse for supplying a review copy. Quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.
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