After a month of reading horror and Hallowe’en-y type books, I needed something fun and light. What is better than a middle grade book about a 13 year old getting super powers, and mistakenly following the path of villainy, instead of becoming a hero?
Penelope has spent her life wanting, and expecting, to be a superhero. She’s got superhero parents, Brian Akk and The Audit. She’s got the ultimate mad science power, building gadgets she can’t explain and doesn’t yet understand. She has two super powered best friends. Her life looks well planned ahead of her. The best laid plans, however…
A superhero sidekick, trying make a name for himself, decides to attack Penny and her friends. Defending themselves, and defeating the sidekick and his hero in the process, they are labeled super villains. And they are really good at it! Penny becomes Bad Penny (as super villain names go, not so good, but she’s stuck with it), with super sidekicks Reviled and E-Claire. Together they are known as The Inscrutable Machine.
The characters are fun! Super-smart Penny becomes the defacto leader of the group; as the mad scientist, she invents and builds their defences and weapons, and super-strong Ray and mind-controlling Claire are happy to use them and become her minions. They are middle grade best friends with respect for each other and their own self confidence.
I liked that they all recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and don’t try to be something that they weren’t, with no envy or competition or resentment that can happen amongst even the best of friends. Penny occasionally wished for the stamina and strength of the other two, but mainly so she could keep up on foot. Not going to happen, so she invented teleporting rings and a light bike so her transportation was at least equal to their foot power.
They act like kids, but kids with extraordinary powers. They are smart enough to battle against and alongside adult superheroes, but not mature enough to know their own limits. Or when to call it quits. So, you know, typical 13 year olds.
The Villains and Heroes were fun and varied. I loved all the different powers, and just the sheer normality of villains taking over Chinatown for weekend parties, the sacredness of the secret identities, truces between heroes and villains, and the reality that good does not always triumph.
A few issues: This was a really fun story, but seemed long. And I’m not sure why – it was very well written, and action packed. But there are a few scenes that were probably longer than they should be, or maybe not even needed, but so fun I wouldn’t know what to edit out.
Generic Girl was a bit of a loose end that author Richard Roberts didn’t know how to handle. She was extremely powerful, but almost an afterthought in the story, disappearing for most of it, then just showing up at the end. She could have easily been part of The Inscrutable Machine, or actually stopped them, given that she knew their secret identities from the start. Her role was a bit confusing.
Anyone who has grown up on the Marvel and DC universes will recognize the traits of the genre, and can read this story. The book is first of a series, and makes it well worth reading the second.
Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain is published by by Curiosity Quills Press.