A number of people have asked me if I have any say in the books I get to review for Booklist and Shelf Awareness. The answer is, yes! I give my editors a general idea of the type of book/age group I like to read, and they send me books based on this. My main thing is that I don’t do romance. As a result, I’ll often get war or sports stories–not my favorites, but still preferable to feelings-laden narratives. But I’ll also get superhero stories! I’m always happy to find on of these in the mix. They run the gamut of action, adventure, humor, suspense, noir, social or political commentary, and light romance, which I can handle as a side story.
As any trip to the movies can tell you, the summer is a prime time to get lost in a world of supers. If you’re looking for something beyond the box office, here are a few of my superhero picks for kids & teens:
Almost Super by Marion Jensen
In Brief: A fun and funny adventure for elementary to middle school readers in the spirit of The Incredibles
Review originally published by Booklist, Feb. 1, 2014
“In a family where your dad can fly and your great-aunt can breath fire, finding out that your superpower is worthless is, well, devastating. Such is the misfortune of Rafter and Benny Bailey. For longer than anyone can remember, Baileys 12 years old and older have been bestowed with a superpower on Leap Day (February 29) that is used to fight their nemeses, the Johnsons. But this year the Bailey powers, quite frankly, supersuck. Unsatisfied with being stuck on the sidelines, Rafter is determined to find out who is stealing the supers’ real powers. Together, he, Benny, and an unlikely friend turn up evidence that suggests there are new supervillains in town. Packed with action and humor, this is a superhero tale in the spirit of The Incredibles. Jensen’s wit and light tone give the story a playful quality while still managing to incorporate a healthy dose of suspense. Family dynamics and teamwork drive a plot that has, above all, a super amount of heart.”
Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones
In Brief: X-men meets Ocean’s Eleven for older middle-grade readers & teens
Review originally published by Booklist, May 15, 2014 Starred Review!
“In the not-too-distant future, the world is struck by the deadly MK plague. When a vaccine is created, it is rapidly distributed before thorough testing has been done. That is why no one is prepared for “the immune”: the .003 percent of the population that develops unusual abilities, such as levitation and mentalism. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba happens to be an illusionist—she is able to trick the human eye, altering her appearance or the space around her. As with any of the immune, she has only a few options available: work for the government, go to prison, or become a criminal. She chooses the harried freedom of being a thief, but after a foolhardy burglary leaves her entangled with a powerful crime syndicate, Ciere takes a job that leads to a dangerous discovery, one that not only puts her crew at risk but also could threaten the world at large. Boasting a complex plot, heart-stopping bursts of action, and questions regarding human nature, Lloyd-Jones’ thought-provoking, multifaceted narrative neatly sidesteps categorization as just another superhero or dystopian novel—though fans of both will be drawn to the material and be pleasantly surprised. An impressive debut guaranteed to disappear from the shelves before your very eyes.”
Hero Worship by Christopher E. Long
In Brief: YA Superhero noir, where the heroes aren’t as heroic as they seem
Review originally published by Booklist, Dec. 15, 2013
“For his entire life, 17-year-old Marvin Maywood has idolized the Core, the squad of superheroes that protects his city from crime. Because his own powers are “dirty,” he knows he can never join their ranks; however, after committing a daring rescue, Marvin finds himself chosen as a potential recruit. It doesn’t take long for him to see that the Core is not the upstanding, heroic outfit he had always believed it to be. Faced with truths that put his convictions to the test, Marvin must decide what it really means to be clean or dirty, and what it means to be a hero. Long’s experience writing for Marvel and DC Comics lends this superpowered novel added depth and believability. Loaded with action and moral ambiguity, this is a classic superhero story with noir sensibilities. Sex, alcohol, and corruption feature in the narrative but never gratuitously so. At its heart, this is the story of a teenager trying to navigate relationships and find his place in the world—only supersized.”
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
In Brief: A cynical young girl befriends a squirrel with superpowers. A charming, illustrated story for young readers.
See my original review here!
Have a favorite superhero story of your own? Leave it in the comments!