❈ Huge thanks to Diversion Publishing & NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Dreadnought ❈
Title: Dreadnought (Nemesis #1)
Author: April Daniels
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Genre: LGBT, Young Adult, Science Fiction,
Potential Triggers: Transphobia, Misgendering, Rape Mention, Q-slur, T-slur, F-slur, Abusive Parents, Homophobia
POV: first person
My Rating: ★★★
Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer⎯a cyborg named Utopia⎯still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
“But it doesn’t matter. Saying it out loud gives it power and my nervousness fades away. I feel good. Whatever happens now, I can deal with it.
Because I’m, Dreadnought.
And I think maybe I could be a good person.”
I want to start off this review with an extra warning. Dreadnaught contains a significant amount of transphobia, homophobia, and use of homophobic/transphobic slurs. If that is triggering for you, then I would not recommend reading Dreadnaught because there is such a large volume of it.
I gravitate towards superhero stories. When I heard that there was a #OwnVoices book with a Trans superhero, it was immediately on my TBR. I did not know what to expect going in. On some occasions, Dreadnaught blew away my expectations and other times it completely fell short.
Dreadnaught has one of the best openings ever, and hooked me from the first sentence. The scene opens with Danny buying nail polish in secret, and then hiding and painting her nails. Her inner dialogue reflecting on her gender identity was stunning and authentic. I’m not a serial highlighter, but I highlighted so many passages in the introduction. Danny was then interrupted by a fight between metahumans, one of them being the powerful Dreadnaught who then dies and gives Danny the gift to live how she was meant to.
After the powerful opener, the book splits into two parts for me. There is the powerful character development of Danny, which I liked, and then the shaky worldbuilding and plot, which I didn’t like.
Danny’s development was amazing. We see her go from insecure to then accepting her status as Dreadnaught. One really important theme she embodies is leaving people behind, even if you feel an obligation to them. This theme is one of my personal favorites. She had a really hard time leaving behind her parents despite their abuse and refusal to accept her for who she was. Throughout the book, Danny struggles to break free from them, but in the end she accepts that she doesn’t need them anymore.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Dreadnaught was the friendship between Danny and Sarah. It was so awesome to see Danny find people who were supportive and had faith in her. Also, I am all for more strong female friendships in Young Adult.
Now on to what I didn’t like, the worldbuilding… I have yet to come across a superhero novel that truly has great worldbuilding. Today, people expect more out of superhero novels worldbuilding wise. Not comparing superhero novels to DC and Marvel movies/comics, which have had decades of development and are well established is a difficult task. Even ignoring all that, the worldbuilding in Dreadnaught was poor. We get a couple of messy information dumps. There’s some alternate history with superheroes fighting Nazi’s, but there’s valkyries too?? Also, there was no real time period establishment. I wanted to know how modern the story was supposed to be, but didn’t really get that.
Another big problem I had, was with the lack of moral ambiguity. There was an attempt at it through the whitecape, greycape, blackcape thing, but it was see through. The characters were either good or evil. The superhero genre has so much potential for morally ambiguous characters, so I was really disappointed that it wasn’t there. I hope that in the next book the in universe morality is expanded upon, and that there are more morally grey characters featured.
I would recommend Dreadnaught to people who want to learn more about what it is like to be Trans, and are looking for an #OwnVoices book. Danny has a beautiful journey.
Favorite Quotes (taken from an ARC, so they may be subject to change):
“Yep. He’s just a billionaire with a utility belt.” Doc sits in her own chair. “His ‘superpower’ is being rich, okay?”
“Why is she hassling me to be Dreadnought? There are times when I want there’s nothing more in the world. But I’m also ashamed to even think about it. Dreadnought knew no fear, and I’m a coward. When I first got my powers I thought courage would come with them, but I can’t even stand up to Dad. How the hell am I supposed to save the world, too?”
“You did it,” she says.
“We did it.”