Author: April Daniels
Release Date: January 24, 2016
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
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.
Thank you so much to Diversion Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! I’ve been looking forward to reading this book from the moment I first heard about it, so I was beyond thrilled when I had the opportunity to read an ARC of it.
Dreadnought is an #OwnVoices book, meaning that it has characters of + discusses a marginalized/diverse identity, with its protagonist and author sharing a marginalized identity. If you’d like to learn more about #OwnVoices, check this out!
I first heard about Dreadnought on Lauren @ Wonderless Review’s Anticipated Reads for 2017 (pt. 2) post – I was absolutely blown away by its premise, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC via NetGalley, and my final opinion is this: Dreadnought is a really, really good book that had the capacity to be great.
It had a fantastic premise, a compelling author, and an engaging story to tell (for the most part). But, there are a few areas in which it felt short, and some mistakes it made, in terms of plot and pacing, that really held it back.
**Quick note: I am a cisgender, straight woman. If I say anything in this review that offends the transgender community, or if I step out of my lane, please let me know!
I really like the cover art for this book – I think it’s striking and visually pleasing, and definitely an eye-catcher – I honestly have no complaints, hahaah! I’m considering getting rid of this category all together, since YA books have such stunning covers nowadays.
When paired with good pacing and a good point in the plot, Daniels’ writing was engaging and fun, and she definitely has her own distinct voice as a storyteller – something she gave Danny, our main character, as well.
Besides plotting and pacing (which I’ll talk more about later in this review!), the biggest issue I had with the writing in this book was that there was a lot more telling rather than showing – instead of taking us through her world, or walking us through a scene, Daniels has a tendency to just tell us what’s happening, or what a certain character is feeling. This even extends to the action scenes – in battles, there was a lot more telling than showing, so I rarely was able to feel as if I was really there.
“Hey! None of that!… You think it’s a uterus that makes a woman? Bullshit. You feel like you’re a girl, you live it, it’s part of you? Then you’re a girl.” – Doc Impossible.
Danny, our main character, is a trans, lesbian girl, and was absolutely fantastic and three-dimensional. Like I mentioned earlier, she has a very distinct voice, and has so much personality that is immediately made apparent. While I don’t want to discuss the trans representation in and of itself because I feel that it’s not my place (I can’t really judge whether there’s ‘good’ representation or not!), I think that Daniels did a great job of developing Danny’s character. Danny being able to transition seamlessly into having the body of a girl didn’t solve all of her problems. She had plenty to deal with back home, and had a lot of inner conflict – she was constantly scared that she would mess things up, she dealt with a lot of self hatred because she thought she didn’t have a spine, and she was worried that she was a coward.
***Minor reveals about characterization + development ahead! If you’d like to avoid any and all spoilers at all costs, skip the rest about Danny.
What I really loved about Danny, though, was the way her character developed. I loved watching her grow into herself and come to understand what she’s worth, and accept nothing less.
Those of you who read this book will recognize this scene (towards the end), but I love it when characters unapologetically refuse to accept anything less than what they deserve, when characters refuse to forgive those who have hurt them, and when characters recognize that they don’t owe anyone anything.
Okay, the spoiler section is over now! You can continue to read in peace 🙂
As for Sarah, though, while I didn’t dislike her, I definitely wasn’t her biggest fan. For multiple reasons. Firstly, I’m not sure if it’s just because I don’t enjoy being told what to do (😅), but I didn’t appreciate her constantly ordering Danny around, and being straight up rude at some points.
<Spoiler> Like when she says,
“Do you want to catch Utopia or not?”
“Then pick some goddamn colors.”
Little things like this in her interactions with Danny would just rub me the wrong way. </spoiler>
I also didn’t enjoy how quick she was to turn towards violence – but with all of that said, she was an amazing friend and support to Danny throughout the book, and was fearless and loyal and unconditional. For that, I’ll give her credit.
Honestly, though, the other characters in this book weren’t around enough for me to connect with them, or feel as though I had gotten to know them – although, I will say that I’m extremely fond of Doc Impossible, I want to fight David, and Graywytch is the absolute worst.
The premise for this book is fantastic – the idea of a superhero story in and of itself is engaging, and something we don’t see much of in YA, but incorporate fantastic representation through a transgender, lesbian main character, and you have a story that people really want to read (I gathered this from my own personal experiences, and the amount of TBRs I’ve seen this book on, hahah!). However, when executed, there were a few issues with Dreadnought’s plot development/storyline that bothered me throughout the book.
Firstly, there was little worldbuilding. I found that, especially throughout the first half of this book, there were a ton of information dumps. We rarely got to experience this world for ourselves, but instead were simply told about its history + infrastructure through frequent internal monologues. Basically, like I mentioned earlier, there was a lot more telling than showing, which is a shame for an urban fantasy.
<spoiler> Also, how the hell are 15 year olds let into a bar? </spoiler>
I also had an issue with the pacing. The plot went from moving extremely quickly (too quickly) to suddenly slowing down, with scenes full of capeing and investigating that were surprisingly unhurried, to the point in which I almost got bored. It wasn’t until I was 75% through with this book that we had our first real encounter with the villain, so the main conflict occurred in the last 25% of the book – the last quarter.
However, once Dreadnought did pick up, it absolutely shined. Although Daniels has a tendency to tell rather than show, her writing throughout this book is vibrant. She tells her story in an entertaining, engaging way, and has brilliant ideas + imagery – my stomach literally turned at one scene, while Danny is in the middle of a certain battle, and has to do a certain thing in order to defeat certain beings. Trust me, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there. I really think that consistency in her writing + controlling her pace is something that Daniels will be able to develop throughout the rest of the books in this series, and I’m excited to watch her grow!
My final note is one that I could be completely alone in – and that’s totally fine. But ultimately, April Daniels does not mince words when it comes to the discrimination Danny has to deal with for being trans – at all. Not when it comes to her father, and not when it comes to her internal self-loathing. And while that is so, so important for those who are not in the transgender community to read about, so that we are able to be more aware and therefore more conscientious, I’m afraid of how this may make young, transgender readers feel. Just as I avoid books that use mental illnesses (specifically psychosis) as plot devices for their villains, because I live with psychosis and know that seeing it painted in such a way would be triggering, I worry for young transgender readers who may be reading scenes full of hatred and bigotry, and feel as if they’re living through the attacks vicariously. Please let me know what you guys think, and if I’m alone in this opinion! This isn’t really a critique – it’s more of a concern.
Overall, Dreadnought was a really good book that has so much potential to grow through its counterparts. Will I be reading its sequel? Hell yes – definitely. I think there’s so much that can be done in this world and its story (!! especially if April Daniels decides to <spoiler>assemble a new Legion</spoiler> in the next book), and I’m excited to see how it progresses! Dreadnought will be released on the 24th of this month; if you read it and decide to review it, link me to your review in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂