Despite the fact that I’ve lived in New York for going on 5 years now and despite the fact that I am one of the world’s biggest fans of young adult and children’s literature, I had never stepped foot inside Books of Wonder before Sunday. (Even sadder? I used to live around the corner on 16th and 6th Ave.)
Sunday there was an author event featuring 5
billion YA authors named Sarah, including two writers whom I very much wanted to meet.
The 5 Sarahs were:
- Sarah Beth Durst, author of INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD, a series about fractured fairy tales and the author of the upcoming ICE, which is a romantic tale set in the Arctic with fucking polar bears. As you all know, I’ve imprinted on Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS and this just sounds AMAZING. I can’t wait until it releases in October.
- Sarah Cross, author of DULL BOY, a novel about superheroes and whose blog I happen to follow because she is a fan of comic books and really, any girl who is a fan of comics should be on my reader.
- Sarah MacLean, author of the teen Regency romance THE SEASON
- Sarah Rees Brennan, author of THE DEMON’S LEXICON
- Sarah Ockler, author of TWENTY BOY SUMMER, a novel about a girl figuring out how to tell her best friend that she was in a relationship with the best friend’s older brother before he died.
As you might have guessed, I had my copy of THE DEMON’S LEXICON with me for Sarah Rees Brennan to sign and I had planned to get DULL BOY while I was there for Sarah Cross to sign.
The event kicked off with a reading from each of the authors, with Rees Brennan reading from her sequel THE DEMON’S COVENANT and the others reading from bits of their (soon-to-be) published works. They were all so marvelous and charming and I wanted to buy every single one of their books, but alas, I am poor. (Also, I have no room to store them in my apartment. Wicked Cool Riley is moving away and is taking two of the bookshelves with her. I have a stack of books taller than my head that currently have no home.) One extremely generous soul took pity on my plight and actually purchased Sarah MacLean’s THE SEASON for me when I blathered on about how much I loved Austen and how I wrote terrible derivative Regency romances when I was 15 featuring a dashing hero named Henry Lovejoy and a heroine named Isabelle…something. Hell, what did I care about the heroine? It was all about Mr. Lovejoy and his sexy, sexy money.
I got my books signed and I was amazed to discover that Sarah Cross and Sarah Rees Brennan actually sort of knew me by face, although I suppose an Asian girl carrying a skydiving helmet who gets inappropriately excited about young adult literature would be hard to miss if you read my blog. I received two very lovely personalised messages from both before I left to find food (my first meal of the day) and read DULL BOY on the subway back to Astoria.
Review of DULL BOY by Sarah Cross
This. Book. Has. Superheroes. Those four words ought to be a ringing endorsement in and of themselves. (Others may beg to differ, but I say you are all misguided!) I suspect that Sarah Cross may be a larger fan of Marvel than DC, given her blog penchant for Wolverine and the X-Men, as well as the fact that her novel is about a bunch of freaks banding together to save the day. I’ve discussed at length elsewhere about “brand” difference between DC and Marvel and I think Sarah Cross’s DULL BOY would fit very nicely into the Marvel universe and oeuvre, so to speak.
At first glance, Avery seems like your average teenaged boy: someone who plays video games with his friends, is on the wrestling team at school, and spends extra hours in the library trying to raise his grades for college. Well, except his friends are kind of shunning him on the account of his anti-social library behaviour and he resigned from the wrestling team because he accidentally broke someone’s collar bone. Oh, and the library thing isn’t true either because Avery has superpowers and is roaming the streets after school, looking for ways to make the world a better place instead of applying himself to his studies.
If you had superstrength and the ability to fly, you’d think it’d be awesome, right? That is, until the thought about possibly being branded a medical freak and vivisected by government scientists crossed your mind. Avery struggles with his gifts, afraid that he might accidentally hurt someone with his strength. He tries to find constructive ways in which to channel and focus his energy, but it just makes his parents think he’s an even bigger delinquent than he actually is. In a most humiliating turn, they end up sending him to reform school.
But it seems as though others are onto Avery’s secret, including a genius-girl named Darla and a beautiful woman named Cherchette. Both seem to have an interest in him, but while Darla wants to help, Cherchette’s motives may be less than noble. Introduced to other kids with powers, Avery finds himself part of a fledgling crimefighting team with true friends for the first time in his life. But Cherchette remains on his heels and she’s getting more and more impatient. She also holds a secret to his powers that may change Avery’s life forever…
Truly? This is a cute little romp. (Did I just write that?) Imagine Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways series except with less parental retribution (sort of), toss in a hint of The Brotherhood from The X-Men, and a smidge of Disney’s Sky High movie and you’ve got DULL BOY. I loved its cast of characters to bits, each quirky and unique in his/her own way, but I adored Catherine in particular. Bitchy, standoffish, aloof—she suffers no nonsense from anyone, least of all herself. I notice that I have the tendency to love heinous bitches in fiction: Felicity Worthington from THE GEMMA DOYLE trilogy by Libba Bray, Johanna from CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins, and now Catherine from DULL BOY. Well, I suppose they aren’t heinous bitches so much as really, really prickly characters and Lord knows, I love me some spirited young women with caustic tongues.
The other characters are great, especially Darla—a super-genius gadget/technology nut who is so brilliant that her social skills need some work, despite her keen observations on human behaviour. My favourite scene in the book occurs in a principal’s office, in which Darla convinces Avery to tape gardening implements to his hands as a faux-roleplaying Wolverine. I love it. Love it.
Yet despite the lighthearted humour, DULL BOY deals with some tough issues, but unlike other YA superhero novels like Perry Moore’s HERO, this isn’t about the freak underdog finding acceptance. The real “villain” of this world is parental expectation and the unexpected and (un)intentional ways our mothers and fathers can screw us up. This isn’t explicit, of course, but each of the characters come from sharply drawn and “ordinarily” dysfunctional families. (This is where I can see the RUNAWAYS connection only the parents are more mundane evil than Evil evil.)
My only real quibble is that the ending didn’t build up to as big of a climax as I had wished. Again, it may be RUNAWAYS influencing me subconsciously, but I wanted a glimpse of something bigger than Cherchette and her father, something on the scale of the Pride or the Brotherhood. This book can stand alone, although the ending leaves some ambiguity and if Cross writes another, I would love to see a much larger conspiracy at work.
Recommended. And I’m not saying it because I met Sarah Cross and she is really sweet and awesome. Really and truly recommended.