Dreadnought by April Daniels

Dreadnought by April Daniels
Pub. Date: January 24, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Diversion Books!)
Summary: Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, she was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But then her second-hand superpowers transformed her 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 between her father’s dangerous obsession with curing her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and the classmate who is secretly a masked vigilante, Danny’s first weeks living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, still haunts the streets of New Port City. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, LGBT

Danny lives in a world where superheroes exist right alongside regular folks – the catch though, is that when a hero dies, their mantel is passed on for someone new to step into the role and that’s exactly what happens the day Dreadnought dies. Danny, several cities away from home and crouched behind a building so she can paint her toenails in privacy, is in the wrong place at the wrong time: just as there are superheroes, there are supervillains and Utopia is the baddest of them all. As they’re engaged in a fierce battle, Uptopia blasts Dreadnought out of the sky, sending him plummeting to the ground…and right into Danny’s path.

Dreadnought is teetering on the brink of death and in his final moments, he passes on the title of Dreadnought to Danny – and it’s not what she expected. As she takes on the name and powers, she also takes on an entirely new body – literally. Inside Danny has always felt like a girl, she knew she was a girl, and now she has the body to prove it. Unfortunately for Danny, while she might be over the moon with her new outward appearance, those around her aren’t quite as readily accepting. Not to mention there’s still that nasty business with Utopia to attend to.

I…did not like this book. At all. There’s been such a huge surge lately of LGBT novels in YA (particularly Middle Grade!) and I’m loving it, so right off the bat I was looking forward to this novel about a transgender superhero. Sadly, almost immediately I realized Dreadnought was not the book I had hoped for. Instead of a novel devoted to the trials and tribulations of a transgender character (I really wanted to get inside her head and experience her thoughts and feelings), Danny gets her magical makeover in the first chapter.

Dreadnought felt like a series of barely-connected daydreams. You know the ones where you finally tell your boss what you think of him? Or how you imagine you’re walking down the street and, out of nowhere, a blazing inferno erupts at a hospital – but no fear, for you’ve managed to save every last child and are dubbed a national hero? Those kind of daydreams. That’s exactly what reading this book felt like: a string of fantasies that are held together by the flimsiest plot ever. Danny, now Dreadnought, discovers her body is not only able to withstand horrific injury (she saves a flaming airplane from crashing into the ground) but she’s also in perfect shape and has an amazingly massive chest, which her BFF can’t stop staring at (of course) and, gosh, she practically has to beat him off with a stick because now he wants to date her after years and years of believing her to be male. She comes to huge blows with her father – an absurd character who was only included so the book would have a bad guy, since Utopia didn’t appear again until 72% of the way in, and then promptly vanished once more a few pages later. Danny, 15, and another 15-year-old casually walk into a bar and no one bats an eye. In the middle of a VERY crucial battle, there’s a multi-page lesson on make-up.

Although I really appreciated the message in Dreadnought, it was so heavy-handed and every single character was either wholly good and loving and accepting or absolutely horrid (wildly insulting and prone to hurling every offensive slur imaginable.) There was a bewildering scene involving another superhero (an adult, mind you) who couldn’t accept that Danny was female:

“I’m just as much a girl as you are.”
“Oh really? She leans forward, steeples her fingers. “Do you even know how to put in a tampon?”

Really?

Another quote that got to me was when Danny said “Suddenly, I’m worried about getting fat, which is something that hasn’t happened to me before.” Yeah, no.

Sorry, Dreadnought, I wanted to cheer you on and I know I’m in the minority here, but you just weren’t the book for me.

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