5 Reasons to Read: Dreadnought by April Daniels

Last year, my dad talked to me nonstop about this book called Dreadnought. He did absolutely everything to try to get me to read it, and I resisted out of principle, because I’m not a “superhero novel kind of girl.” I was wrong. What I am is an idiot, because the Nemesis series is freaking fantastic. I figured that out because my dad is an evil genius and sent me a copy while I was at school pretending to study for finals, and so when it came in the mail I stopped pretending and devoured it in two hours.

Here are five reasons you should go do the same thing. You won’t regret it.

1. Trans girl superhero….. enough said.

2. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has saturated the market so completely that I thought it was my only option for Powered People Content™. It’s not! Dreadnought should be required reading for every teenager who’s seen the most recent Avengers movie, as a model of what superhero media could be, if white men didn’t run Hollywood.

The nail polish is a nice deep red. I’ve been running mostly with blue recently, but I think it’s time for a change. The cotton balls soak up remover and the blue polish rubs off my toes a bit at a time. It feels right. It feels necessary. Painting my toes is the one way I can give voice to this idea inside me that gets heavier every year: 

I’m not supposed to be a boy.

Accurate! Representation! Matters! And! You! Can! Find! It! In! Dreadnought!

3. Beyond creating a world in which superheroes aren’t wrapped in vestiges of 20th century culture, Daniels also provides for government regulation of superheroes in a way that’s well thought out and easy to understand. There’s cool lingo, like calling superheroes “capes” and differentiating between whitecapes and blackcapes, with morally ambiguous graycapes in between. There’s superhero teams like the Legion, who give out full and provisional memberships depending on age and ability. There’s some people who call their powers “special abilities” and use them to be flying couriers or invulnerable firefighters.

Hearing about the practical and boring stuff is an indulgent surprise, if you love superheroes. It’s like getting an order of fries and finding that one accidental but delicious onion ring that makes the whole meal that much sweeter.

4. Did I mention the whole trans girl superhero thing? Well, there’s that, and there’s also the fact that the narrative clearly acknowledges that anyone who doesn’t give Danny the respect she deserves is an asshole and should be treated as such.

“Some of them seem uncomfortable about me being transgender.” It comes out almost as a mutter, and I feel like such a tool. Almost as if by not speaking up strongly I’m betraying myself, but by saying anything at all I’m betraying them. 

“There. You see?” Calamity nods sharply. “Whitecapes are happy to draw neat little lines that make neat little boxes and act like they’re Justice with her scales, but the moment someone doesn’t fit into their cute little grid, suddenly they don’t quite care about what’s fair or not, do they?”

“Some of them really stood up for me.” 

“Did they kick the other ones off the team?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then they’re aiding and abetting your enemy.” 

Who cares if you save the world? That isn’t enough, not if you continually and maliciously use the wrong pronouns to address someone. It doesn’t matter how often you claim you’re a feminist– a good hero can still be a bad person!

5. There’s a fantastic sequel that you can dive right into when you’re done, so you don’t have to deal with that this-book-was-so-good-and-I’m-sad-it’s-over feeling that tends to take over upon finishing a story like Dreadnought.

Plus, the next book gives you queer love story mixed with a world ending threat and teenage drama. Basically everything you could ever ask for, and it’s all right there in one novel.

What are you waiting for?

Books that Changed My Life: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The first time I saw Fangirl, it was on the new arrivals shelf in the young adult section of my local library. That’s where I found a lot of the books I read in middle and high school, so it shouldn’t have been a special moment, but it was.

Here was this book, with a girl and her laptop on the cover, lounging on the word that made me stop in my tracks: FANGIRL.

I was a teenager and I wrote fanfiction, but it was my little secret. I was convinced nobody would understand it, or that I was going to be found out as a freak for posting it on the internet for strangers to read. If I was doing so much as reading Harry Potter fanfiction on Archive of Our Own and someone opened the door to my room I would slam the laptop shut.

But this book had it on the cover. This book, which is about an awkward, introverted girl who writes gay fanfiction and calls herself crazy and means it. I picked it up, because I was curious, and then I wasn’t the only person I knew who wrote fanfiction. Cath was in my corner.

Now, the cover wasn’t the only reason this book Changed My Life. If it was poorly written, or if the plot was boring or unrealistic, it would have just been a book about fanfiction that I was embarrassed to read. I would have felt exposed, rather than known. I am so happy that’s not the case.

Cath is not perfect. She’s not girl-next-door shy. She’s not awkward-until-I-take-off-my-glasses anxious. Cather Avery is nervous and introverted and that never changes. What changes is that she learns to share that with other people, and she does that without giving up the fandom. She does it without ever making the readers who identify with her feel shamed.

We even got, in Wren, a girl who is passionate about fanfiction, but who is also extroverted and brings home boyfriends (not that that’s a measure of success, but it was nice, seeing the type of girl I always envied love a book as much as I did). And her father, who knew they loved fanfiction and understood it.

But back to my main point: this book did a beautiful and magical thing by taking a character who resembles a real person, and letting her grow into herself without losing herself.

And as I’ve read the book, and then reread it over the years, I’ve been doing some growing of my own. I went to college and I wasn’t totally happy. I felt alone, and scared. I (and everyone else who’s ever sat down to write something) felt like I’ll never be able to create something as good as what I’ve read. But I had Cath, who felt all of this, and didn’t need curing. She just needed encouragement, and time.

I didn’t think people wrote stories about introverts, especially not in fandom. If they did, I didn’t think they’d sell. And Fangirl did both of those things, because it was a book for people who loved books. The kind of people who knew how to lose themselves in a story, who knew what it was like to love a character so much they just have to make friends halfway around the world so they can talk about it.

We finally got to read about ourselves.