BWW Review: DREADNOUGHT by April Daniels
"They want me to cooperate in my own destruction. They want me to tell them it's not true. They want me to help them believe the lie.NEVER AGAIN."
DREADNOUGHT is a powerful debut novel, and readers will be sucked in from the very first page. Danny is instantly easy to root for, investing readers in her story from the very get-go.
When we meet Danny, she has gone out of town to buy nail polish someplace where nobody will see, then goes to paint her toes someplace quiet:
The nail polish is a nice deep red. I've been running mostly with blue recently, but I think it's time for a change. The cotton balls soak up remover and the blue polish rubs off my toes a bit at a time. It feels right. It feels necessary. Painting my toes is the one way I can take control. The one way I can fight back. The one way I can give voice to this idea inside me that gets heavier every year:
I'm not supposed to be a boy.
Unfortunately for Danny, the so-called quiet spot turns out to be a battleground for a dueling superhero/supervillain fight. Being around such fights can be very dangerous for normal, everyday civilians like Danny. When the powerful hero Dreadnought falls, Danny is horrified and hurries to help him. With his dying breath, Dreadnought passes his mantle to Danny, and something unexpectedly wonderful happens: By absorbing Dreadnought's powers, Danny becomes a girl in all the ways that count. Now she's female both inside and out, with a perfect body to match who she has always been inside.
While Danny loves who she has become, she's not certain she wants the power and responsibility that comes with stepping into the role of Dreadnought. But she doesn't want to give them up, either, because it might turn her back into a boy again, and she can't bear to go back to that life. Her parents are horrified to see that their son has been transformed and seek out the help of doctors. The Legion of Superheroes that protect the city aren't sure what to make of Danny. Some of them are fine with her, while others are perplexed or upset that Dreadnought's powers passed on to Danny. Danny has to worry not just about what she wants, but what everyone else expects of her, all while trying to come to terms with her new powers and decide what she wants in life.
Because this is a book from an OwnVoices author, Danny reads in such an authentic, heartfelt way. You feel for her when people treat her poorly and call her filthy names. Once Danny's body is female, she also gets objectified and slurred against for being female, so she gets the nasty comments in both corners. Her homelife is a wreck. You root for her when people show up in her corner and befriend her and give her the safety net she's desperately in need of. Danny gets help where she never expected to find it, and it's life-changing.
So many readers have asked for more books--especially in fantasy--where the main characters going on adventures are more diverse. Where that diversity isn't the entire story, but another layer of it. Where characters of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds can have adventures. DREADNOUGHT fulfills that wish by creating a captivating transgender superhero adventure that flows and feels authentic in every way that matters. This book will resonate with so many readers, and Danny and her story are easy to embrace and fall for.
We need more female superheroes in the world, and there are several powerful women worth rooting for in DREADNOUGHT. GIRL POWER, y'all! From the smart-as-a-whip Doctor Impossible who takes Danny under her wing (And seriously, isn't that an awesome name!?) to her friend Calamity, who is a graycape walking the line between good and evil to the female members of the Legion, there are a ton of fierce ladies that make this story come to life. I love that it's not a Bro Adventure like so many superhero adventures out there that have maybe one or two token females.
And the world building? Listen, it's HARD to bring superheroes to life through writing. That's why so many of them are graphic novels. It's a very visual form of storytelling. But DREADNOUGHT does it well, and it's easy to see the battles and get a sense of the world. This is world building done right, and it really helps bring the story to life and make it feel even more fleshed out and real.
I really loved DREADNOUGHT and I'm so excited there's going to be a sequel this summer entitled SOVEREIGN. I can't wait to see what's next for Danny after the fallout from the first book and where things are left off!
DREADNOUGHT was published on January 24, 2017 from Diversion Publishing.