The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente. ★★★1/2
Catherynne Valente tackles gendered superhero tropes with this collection of six stories. The girls of the Hell Hath Club are dead, but they’ve found each other for company is the strange expanse of Deadtown. They gather together, drink Styx water, and commiserate about their lives and deaths. Superheroines, girlfriends of superheroes, supervillainesses… they all got the short end of the stick.
I’m not super knowledgeable about comic books. I’ve seen some movies, read a few issues of Ms. Marvel, but that’s pretty much it. However, I could still tell which comic book characters most of the dead girls were supposed to be. The first one, a scientist who accidentally gives her boyfriend superpowers, is clearly based off of some girlfriend of Spiderman. The extremely powerful, only woman on her team heroine with psychic powers sounded a lot like a certain X-Man. An off kilter villainess with an impressive but misplaced loyalty to her man could be no one but Harley Quinn. Another’s the wife of Aquaman, not quite dead but slipped out of her asylum to search Deadtown for her murdered son. Of the six women, there were only two I couldn’t connect to any Marvel or DC characters. One is the famous girl in the fridge, who I’ve heard of before but don’t know much about. According to other reviewers, the last is a riff off of Karen Page, who I only know from the Netflix series.
The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★1/2
In Chameleon Moon, RoAnna Sylver introduced the dystopic city of Patrol, who’s citizens lived a precarious life above eternally blazing fire, governed by the nefarious Eye in the Sky. Oh, and most of these citizens also had some form of superpower – the reason they were trapped within Patrol.
In this sequel, Slyver takes us outside the city of Patrol. But as it turns out, the world beyond isn’t all sunshine and happiness. A poisonous wasteland named Tartarus has infected much of America with noxious fumes and eerie ghosts. Three teenagers will have to brave this danger zone to bring hope to Patrol.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★★
I loved Chameleon Moon so much, and I think it would hold a strong appeal for fans of Welcome to Night Vale.
Patrol is a true dystopian – a city where the sky is chocked with smoke and ash and the ground is just one step away from crumbling into the fires below. And above everything the helicopters of Eye in the Sky survey the super powered citizens, making sure no one can escape. But within this hellhole, the citizens of Patrol have found love, families, and the will to resist. Among them is Evelyn Calliope, a singer with a sonic voice who is the heroine that Patrol needs.
Dreadnought by April Daniels. ★★★1/2
Trigger warning: Transphobia, emotional abuse
Dreadnought is an #OwnVoices YA superhero novel about a young lesbian trans girl.
Fifteen-year old Danny Tozer is secretly painting her toenails behind the mall when two meta-humans get in a fight right in front of her. Thus she’s the only person around when Dreadnought, the greatest superhero of them all dies… and so she receives his powers. But not only does she get superpowers, her body also transforms into the one she’s always wanted. Now everyone knows that she’s a girl. Unfortunately, this includes her emotionally abusive father, who’s always tried to make her into a “manly man.” Oh, and the super-villain who killed Dreadnought is still running around. Danny’s life just got complicated.
Plastic Smile by S.L. Huang. ★★★1/2
Plastic Smile is the fourth novel in the Russell’s Attic series, a usually action oriented science fiction series about an anti-heroic woman with superpowers based on math. I suggest reading the series in order, starting with the first book, Zero Sum Game. This review may contain spoilers for prior books.
As part of her attempt to become a better person, Cas Russell has decided to fight crime. Being Cas, she decides to find the most mathematically efficient way of crime fighting. She hits upon a device that emits subsonic signals that break up group thought. Subliminal brain control over the entire Los Angles area. What could go wrong?
Root of Unity by S.L. Huang. ★★★1/2
Cas Russell and her mathematical superpowers are back! Root of Unity is the third book in Russell’s Attic series (start with Zero Sum Game), a series of fast paced, science fiction action thriller’s. Cas Russell has superhuman math abilities which she uses to work as a mercenary, instantly calculating the trajectory of bullets and the exact parabolic arcs needed to leap between buildings.
However, Cas is also trying to become a better person. It’s a strange journey for our anti-heroine, and Roots of Unity opens with her “falling off the wagon” – killing people again after she’d gone all of book two without murdering anyone. Over the course of the last two books, she’s found something very new for her: friends. Cas is horrible at interpersonal relationships, but she’s trying her best to learn this friendship thing.
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee. ★★★1/2
Not Your Sidekick is an adorable YA LGBT superhero story. Jess Tran’s parents are the resident superheroes of Andover, Nevada. Jess wants nothing more than to be a superhero herself, but unlike her gifted sister, she’s never manifested powers. Determined to try and make her own path in life nevertheless, she applies and is accepted for a prestigious internship… which turns out to be for the town super villain. On the bright side, she gets to spend some time with her crush, Abbie. But as her internship progresses, Jess will begin to realize that there are secrets yet to be uncovered.