What: Dreadnought (Nemesis #1) by April Daniels
Who: Diversion Books
When: January 24th 2017
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Diversion Books for review via Net Galley.
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.
Before I delve into my thoughts on Dreadnought I want to scream from the rooftops that this book is about a trans superhero. HELLS TO THE YES.
1) Danny is precious.
I wanted to protect Danny throughout this entire book. My mother hen most definitely reared its clucky head because I cannot help but want to protect people who are being treated like shit. Which Danny was for the most part in this book. And that made me want to dive in and be the person that she needed – the one that supported her no matter what, and loved her for everything that she is. Danny does make a friend in Calamity, but I also wanted someone else for her, someone who was soft and loving. I hope that that person comes along at some point in the series.
Danny starts off the book as a normal human, who is then endowed with superpowers from the superhero Dreadnought. And even though she gains superhuman strength and thus becomes incredibly strong physically, I think her standout quality was her emotional strength. She goes through a lot in this book, and even though at times she feels helpless she never gives up. I had such pride and admiration for her because of that. Not everyone would be able to cope with the shit that is piled on Danny in Dreadnought.
2) It is so obviously #ownvoices.
And, of course, I mean this in the best way possible. There are so many traps that cis writers fall into when writing trans characters, and there’s always that feeling that you get when you read them where you’re just like: this is so obviously a cis writer writing about being trans. And it was so completely the opposite in Dreadnought. WE NEED MORE TRANS BOOKS WRITTEN BY TRANS AUTHORS OMG.
The authenticity of Danny’s experience as a trans girl felt so incredibly real, and it really just spoke to the heart. If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a book with a trans MC please make it this one.
3) I didn’t like a lot of the superheroes.
I liked Doc Impossible, although she did mess up quite a bit, and that resulted in pain on Danny’s behalf so I find it hard to forgive her. I did like Valkyrja, because she was sweet and Danny’s crush on her was ADORABLE. But the rest of them were assholes. And that was quite interesting because it’s like … just because you save the world doesn’t mean that you’re a kind person. So many of the Legion Pacifica (this book’s Avengers-like group) were super un-accepting or just silent in the face of the transphobia that Danny was facing, which was not okay.
The superhero that I disliked the most was Graywytch. I absolutely despised her and her transphobia. Also the way she constantly misgendered Danny and called her “young man”. Mother hen = activated. I really hope that she is taken down a notch (or, you know, a thousand) because I don’t want to see that person hurt Danny anymore.
4) So much exploration.
I guess that point doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but I’ll try to explain.
When Danny is given the powers of Dreadnought, her body transforms from male to female (I apologise if this terminology is shit, I don’t know how to explain it any other way). So people immediately assume that she IDs as a girl (which she does, but let us all remember that femininity =/= identifying as a girl), which leads to Danny experiencing sexism in a way that she mightn’t have faced before e.g. people assuming she can’t do certain things because she’s a girl.
One of the superheroes in the group is a cis gay guy, but isn’t supportive of Danny. I felt like this was a great thing to include because the LGBTQIA+ community isn’t perfect, and there are cis people who are queer but not supportive of trans girls (or any people who aren’t cis). It was sad to see Danny get excited about not being the only non-cishet person in the group, but then get let down by the guy.
Danny’s best friend, a cishet guy, suddenly assumed that Danny will date him when she comes out to him as trans after her Dreadnought transformation. He was a total asshole and we will never speak of him again.
There was absolutely zero support from Danny’s parents, even though in the beginning it looked like her mum might be supportive. But neither of them were, and both were very into the “let’s fix you” mindset, which was hard and sad to read about because dammit I just wanted Danny to be accepted and loved by her own parents.
5) It balanced action and development.
Don’t think that Dreadnought is 100% all about being a superhero and fighting the bad guys. There is quite a bit of that stuff, but there’s also a lot of Danny figuring out what life is like now that she’s out as a trans girl, and also trying to figure out if she really wants to be the world’s best superhero. I liked that Danny didn’t just dive into being an amazing superhero out to save the world because people die that way and she’s only fifteen. The balance between the two was pretty well handled.
Overall, I really enjoyed Dreadnought. There is literally no other book like it out there, and I highly recommend it if you want to read a book with a trans MC, an LGBTQIA+ book that isn’t contemporary, or an awesome #ownvoices book.
© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning: transphobia, domestic violence, emotional abuse, bullying, transantagonism, multiple murders, and use of ableist language in this novel