reileen: (reading - books)
Typing this on the main computer downstairs, while I've freed up my laptop to do the sole job of trimming and saving updated music clips to be posted on my YouTube. Trust me, this is a huge job for that old geezer to be working on. And we're not even getting into the issue of actually uploading those clips to YouTube, hoo boy.

Now let's see if I can remember how to string together coherent, analytical sentences...

***

Tekgrrl by A.J. Menden was a total impulse buy for me at the DePaul Barnes & Noble - I was browsing the shelves while waiting for my dad to drop by and pick me up. I really should have known better, especially since I don't have any a lot of money to spend in the first place, and superhero stories aren't even really my thing in general. But one of the first pages I flipped to had the main character talking about how she always wanted to be a superhero since she was young, "someone important" who would save the world, but then the glamour of that dream quickly wore off once she joined a superhero squad. The sentiment resonated strongly with a main character from a longtime fanfic project of mine (...which I really should update soon, yikes), so I bought the book in the name of pseudo-research.

In a world where superpowered people exist and fight on both sides of the law, Mindy's genius intelligence and mechanical engineering skills seem almost painfully ordinary. Nevertheless, she's achieved her childhood dream and earned herself a place on a team called the Elite Hands of Justice, America's top superhero squad, where she takes on the name of "Tekgrrl". But things haven't been going so well for her lately: her longtime crush has been flirting with the ridiculously attractive new recruit, her gay best friend has finally found himself a boyfriend while she remains single and pushing on age 30, and the government has been trying to dig its fingers into the EHJ via a rival organization headed by ex-ally Simon Leasure.

Compared with all of that, killer headaches seem comparatively innocuous. But those headaches are a symptom of something more sinister: a forcibly-erased nightmare from Mindy's memories of her time spent on an alien planet. And soon, that very same nightmare will be coming to Earth with plans to utterly decimate the planet.

[/narrator voice off]

I enjoyed this book for the most part, albeit more in the sense of "Well, it could be better...but it could also be worse." Despite Mindy's precious angsty past, it's a light, mostly safe read, almost to the point of blandness. The book is kind of like Lays baked potato chips in that sense. (Sorry to any of those who like Lays baked potato chips!) The prose is standard and the primary characters are generally likable. The villains are laughably one-dimensional, but I guess that's to be expected from a superhero story?

My main issue with the book was how Mindy's primary romantic relationship was handled. Her eventual lovebunny doesn't even get pegged as such until literally about halfway through the book, when he declares his Hot, Burnin' I-Can't-Live-Without-You Love for Mindy. Now, okay, obscuring the identity of the One True Love at the beginning of a story is a perfectly legitimate authorial choice. But when your big reveal sends your reader scurrying back through the previous pages to find any hint that this could have been coming, only to find exactly zero, you've got a problem. Seriously, Mindy and this guy had no chemistry at all prior to the Declaration of True Love, and then all of a sudden he kisses her and she finds herself hot for him and then they go on to have wild monkey sex? No. Sorry. Not buying that at all. My experience of the book was really soured by this inept handling of a surprise romance, and I really couldn't find it in myself to cheer the two of them on, even though I'd previously been rooting for Mindy to find some sort of romantic closure after her unrequited crush.

Then there's also the anticlimactic ending. I'm not sure how you can make an interplanetary war between invading alien forces and a team of superheroes into a snorewar, but the author somehow managed it here. Even given [really spoilery bit], the ultimate showdown didn't feel urgent or emotional at all.

In fact, the worldbuilding was lacking overall. I don't know if it was explained in the previous book set in this novelverse, but I was hoping for some backstory on how and why superheroes became this tour de force on Earth. Are we looking at an AU Earth where superheroes have always existed in some way, or what? Since Mindy was sent to study abroad on another freakin' planet, this is definitely a futuristic Earth, so were superheroes another technological marvel that developed prior to this story? Maybe someone with more of a literary kink for superhero stories would have overlooked something like this, but I found that it only contributed to how shallow the entire novel seemed to me. I probably would've excused it if the characters were more compelling (although I did somewhat enjoy the antics of Fantasia and Cyrus the Virus).

All in all, a standard read. I'd probably recommend it if someone had to choose between this and, say, Twilight, but there's gotta be better superhero novels out there. At least I gained some thotz about how to handle a superhero squad in something resembling the real world.

-Reileen
I am the thorn within

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Reileen van Kaile

April 2010

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