Thursday, August 20, 2015

REVIEW: Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs

by Tera Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs
YA/Superhero Fiction
4 stars

I'm warning you right now. Powerless is not a standalone novel. I didn't realize this until about twenty pages from the end when I realized there was nowhere near enough time to wrap everything up.

It was not pretty.

Powerless was part of my attempt to read more superhero fiction this summer, in keeping with the ALA's Summer Reading theme for the year. This wasn't originally on my list, I just came across it one day at work and thought, what the heck?

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Powerless. It falls more into the realm of traditional YA, which I don't really read, because it deals a lot with teenage angst and romance drama, and I have come to realize that I don't enjoy those kinds of books very much. Powerless also had other elements that I generally don't like in books -the heroine falls for a bad boy, which I am very picky about, and there was quite a bit of swearing.

The reason I couldn't put this book down was mostly the characters, but also the way the authors play with the concept of good and evil -or, more accurately, heroes and villains.

Kenna Swift, our heroine, is feisty, stubborn, smart, and capable. She also happens to be powerless in a world filled with superheroes and villains. Despite her willingness and ability to stand up for herself, she is thought weak and fragile, not only by her powered peers, but by her own mother. It was both Kenna's frustration by this constant underestimation, her determination to rise above it, and her awesome sass that kept me turning the pages. She is fantastic.

The story jumps right into the thick of things when three villains break into the super secret superhero lab where Kenna is working late. All alone. And what does she do? She grabs the nearest weapon and tries to fight them off.

This attack leads Kenna to question everything she thinks she knows about heroes and villains, and it will send her into a most unlikely partnership. This was the second big thing that drew me into the story. Kenna is constantly plagued by the question of what makes a hero, and what makes a villain? In this world, the authors have chosen at least so far not to offer explanation on the origin of powers. The only thing we do know is that when a person's power manifests, a tattoo appears under either ear -one to brand a hero, the other a villain. This raises some marvelously juicy questions about a person's actions and morals, and I can't wait to see how the authors handle this down the road.
All of the characters in Powerless are really interesting, though my favorite might be Kenna's technopathic and incredibly paranoid ex-boyfriend.

Back to the bad boy romance. I dislike this type of romance because I hate it when girls are handed these sugar-coated fictional relationships that are unhealthy or unrealistic. Powerless handles this well by not making Kenna naive or deluding herself. Even as she's falling for the bad boy, she knows it's a bad idea. She doesn't just fall for the guy without thinking of the consequences. She also falls for him, not the idea of him, and it's the good in him that she likes, not the bad. She recognizes the bad as bad, and that's a huge win here. There's also the fact that the bad boy respects her. They fight and argue a lot, but as equals, and the moment anyone undervalues Kenna, this guy sets them straight. If there's a way to do a bad boy romance right, this is pretty darn close.

Probably the biggest drawback of this book for me was the swearing, but it never really felt excessive, which is saying something considering it had a lot more than I usually put up with. But its use felt natural, rather than excessive, the other factors of the book made it worthwhile.

So basically we have a strong and sassy heroine, superheroes and villains, treachery, lies, a constantly evolving story line, and a superhero who wears Superman pajamas. Seriously.

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