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Dreadnought: 02/06/17

Dreadnought by April Daniels

Dreadnought by April Daniels is one of the best books I've read — ever. I heard about it back in September 2016 — on a list of upcoming queer YA. The brief blurb promised a transgender superhero. On that very brief bit of information I pre-ordered a copy. BOY AM I GLAD I DID.

Like If I Were Your Girl, the transitioning of the main character is over and done with at the very start of the book. The coming to terms with gender identity on a personal level isn't the point here.

Both books chose to look well beyond where the typical book ends. The former is a realistic fiction (beyond the fudging to make the main character young enough to still be in high school). The latter is wrapped up in a superhero adventure story.

Danny at the start of the book is keeping herself sane by painting her toenails. It's the one part of herself she has autonomy over. Her parents, as we learn later in depressing, rage inducing detail, are not supportive of her. To them, she is and always will be, their son, Daniel.

And then all hell breaks loose and Danny finds herself in the middle of a battle between a superhero and a supervillain. This is an alternate Earth where superpowers have been part of the landscape since WWII. What Danny doesn't expect, is to receive the mantel (and powers) of Dreadnought as he succumbs to his injuries. What she also doesn't expect (and no one else does either) is to find herself transformed into the body she wants.

All of this is just the first, very short chapter. It is the set up for a fantastic superhero story that has the twist of the person receiving the coveted powers being a transgender lesbian teenage girl. Danny doesn't find a happy escape through her new powers or a safe-haven with the League who is obligated to be interested in her because of her powers. Nor does the book promise that sort of escapism.

Instead, the book is a mystery — one to find Dreadnought's killer, to discover what she has planned, and to find a way to stop her. It's fleshed out with discussions of power and corruption, gender and privilege, and transphobia.

The sequel, Sovereign is due out in July.

Five stars

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