Superheroes Anonymous: A light, fun twist on superheroes

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSuperheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne fantasy book reviewsSuperheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne 

Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne follows the adventures of Gail Godwin, otherwise known as Hostage Girl, in a world where superheroes and villains exist as celebrities and fodder for gossip websites. A Chicago reporter, Gail — or Girl, as her friends call her — is constantly kidnapped and held hostage by supervillains and subsequently saved by Blaze, one of the most popular heroes. The gossip columnists speculate that Blaze’s identity is Jeremy, Girl’s real-life boyfriend, but she doubts it. However, when Jeremy breaks up with her and moves to Miami, Blaze leaves Chicago for Miami. With no hero to save her, Girl is captured yet again and injected with a serum that gives her superpowers of her own.

With this event, Girl is formally inducted into the underground realities of being a superhero. She learns the real-world identities of her favorite superheroes, including the mysterious Blaze. She also begins training to develop her newly-hatched powers, while in the background a strange new villain makes trouble in Chicago.

I enjoyed reading Superheroes Anonymous. It was a quick, light read, but hard to put down. The writing style was snappy and fast-paced, full of puns and witty banter. Some cheesy or cliché lines made their way into the book, but even there, Dunne managed to surprise me at times. In one such instance, Girl is drooling over a very handsome man she just met. As she is looking him up and down, she offhandedly refers to a woman standing by as his “girlfriend.” I rolled my eyes, thinking, “Wow, that is the cheesiest way for a girl to ascertain that the guy she is lusting after is single.” But as the scene continues, it turns out that Girl is right. One of her new powers is that of super-smell, and she can sense that the two people are exuding hormones that indicate their attraction and sexual togetherness. It was a clever reversal of the typical use of that line, while introducing a power of Girl’s at the same time.

I also enjoyed the way Dunne used some of the tropes of the superhero genre. We get to see characters obsess over what elements should go into their superhero outfit, and learn about a wide array of heroes and villains, each with more ridiculous powers. Many of the names Dunne chooses are alliterative, mimicking names like Peter Parker or Lois Lane, or slightly unrealistic. I particularly enjoyed the name “Guy Bookman” for a character who works in publishing.

The biggest superhero trope that Dunne turns on its head is the idea of the eternal hostage. Girl, a character whose power is constantly taken away from her, who is always in need of rescuing, becomes a superhero in her own right, with the ability to rescue others. It is a typical story of the weak becoming strong; we see it in Stephenie Meyer’s Bella Swan. Luckily, Girl is more self-possessed and less annoying than Ms. Swan. She is a curious and intelligent character. As she peeks behind the veil of superhero-dom, she wants to understand how all of the pieces fit together. Sometimes this makes her a stand-in for the reader, asking the questions that we have for us. But it seems motivated by her background as a reporter.

Superheroes Anonymous has a couple of flaws that annoyed me along the way. I never understood Girl’s relationship to Jeremy. He’s a cipher at the beginning of the novel when he breaks up with her seemingly out of the blue, and later, he’s just an asshole. I didn’t get why he was so mean to her. What did she do to deserve his rudeness? And why did she ever date him in the first place? I also didn’t buy the idea that Girl didn’t know whether or not Jeremy was Blaze. She lived with Jeremy for 4 years; she was probably intimately familiar with him and his body. When Blaze rescues her, he’s in a costume, but she can still see his eyes and, presumably, the shape of his body (and smell him, too). It just seems like she would be able to tell whether or not it is the same person.

Finally, the book ends in a cliffhanger. The last words are “To Be Continued.” I found this disappointing although, if I’m being honest, I will probably pick up the next one, just so I can find out what happens to Girl.

Publication Date: November 18, 2014. Everybody in Chicago has a “superhero sighting” story. So when a villain attacks editorial assistant Gail Godwin and she’s rescued by superhero Blaze, it’s a great story, and nothing more. Until it happens again. And again. Now the media has dubbed her Hostage Girl, nobody remembers her real name, and people are convinced that Blaze is just her boyfriend, Jeremy, in disguise. Gail’s not so sure. All she knows is that when both Jeremy and Blaze leave town in the same week, she’s probably doomed. Who will save her now? Yet, miraculously, the villains lose interest. Gail is able to return to her life … until she wakes up strapped to a metal table by a mad scientist who hasn’t read the news. After escaping—now more than human herself—she’s drawn into a secret underground world of superheroes. She’ll have to come to terms with her powers (and weaknesses) to make it in the new society, and it’s not easy. After all, there’s a new villain on the rise, and she has her sights set on the one and only Hostage Girl.

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KATE LECHLER, with us since May 2014, resides in Oxford, MS, where she divides her time between teaching early British literature at the University of Mississippi, writing fiction, and throwing the tennis ball for her insatiable terrier, Sam. She loves speculative fiction because of what it tells us about our past, present, and future. She particularly enjoys re-imagined fairy tales and myths, fabulism, magical realism, urban fantasy, and the New Weird. Just as in real life, she has no time for melodramatic protagonists with no sense of humor. The movie she quotes most often is Jurassic Park, and the TV show she obsessively re-watches (much to the chagrin of her husband) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her personal blog is The Rediscovered Country and she tweets @katelechler.

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One comment

  1. This sounds like a really fun book — a superhero novel set in my hometown of Chicago. I love fun and funny fantasy-type stuff so I’ll definitely give this a trial! Great blog, BTW!

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