Wednesday, 25 July 2018
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure how to rank it on my ballot for the Campbell Award. Tons of fun, yes, but a few other books feel weightier. But then I feel uncomfortable with that - does everything have to be weightier? Isn't there room for acknowledging the artistry in enjoyable done extremely well? But, but, but...I don't know. This may not be at the top of my ballot, whenever I sort that out (and I have to do that soon!) but it is not because it wasn't a book I enjoyed reading. This was fluff or near-fluff of the highest order.
This book is about Evie, who is the personal assistant of San Francisco's greatest superhero, Aveda Jupiter (please tell me I'm remembering the name right.) Which is not an easy gig, because Aveda takes both the superheroing and the social media parts of her job extremely seriously, and as her actual super powers are somewhat minimal, tends to have hissyfit meltdowns over every stray trollish comment on her exploits.
Aveda is also Evie's best childhood friend, Annie, so there's that keeping Evie tied to a boss she has to manage like a small child. Evie herself is extraordinarily locked down, and we discover it's because she has much more impressive super powers of her own, that she's afraid of hurting people with. And also, her mom had died, and her dad flaked off, and she's trying to raise a bratty teenage sister who only wants to push boundaries.
Did I mention that all the characters mentioned so far are Asian-American? It's about damned time, and it's both part of the story and not part of the story at the same time - in that it informs who these young women are, but they're also themselves, and entirely different from each other. I shouldn't have to point that out as new and enjoyable, but here we are. Sarah Kuhn has written characters that feel real, and they're vivid and interesting.
I also very, very much liked how much this book referred to the movie The Heroic Trio, which is a Hong Kong action movie with three women main characters that I love very much. I don't know how those references would have landed for people who haven't seen the movie, but a) it's a great movie and you should see it, and b) I enjoyed every time it came up.
The characters in San Francisco with super powers got them the first day a demon portal opened up in town. Since then, they've been opening up with fair frequency, and Aveda Jupiter is always there to kick some demon ass, mostly by working her butt off to stay in shape so she can. But the things coming through start to change after an encounter at a cupcake shoppe, and Aveda sprains her ankle. With the help of the rest of Aveda's entourage (Lucy, her security guard, and Nate, her researcher) and Evie's childhood friend Sam, they come up with a plan to use a glamour to pass Evie off as Aveda for at least a little while.
Hijinks ensue, as of course, they do. Evie's little sister is pissed off. Evie starts to rediscover feelings, particularly around Nate, who she is supposed to find irritating so passionately it's obviously misplaced attraction. That relationship is a great deal of fun. And, of course, the demons keep on coming. And so does the snotty blogger who just loves to be catty about San Franciscan luminaries.
Nothing about this felt particularly unexpected, but all of it was done so well and so enjoyably that if you're looking for something that will make you happy and interested without feeling devastated, I recommend this book, and hopefully the rest of the series, which I will totally get to at some point.