Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Published: DAW Books (2016)
Series: Book 1 of the Heroine Complex Trilogy

The Book:

“Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder. Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco's most beloved superheroine. She's great at her job--blending into the background, handling her boss's epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.Unfortunately, she's not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie's forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest secret comes out: she has powers, too. Now it's up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles--all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda's increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right... or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.”

I read this one because the author was nominated for the JWC Best New Author award.  It’s not exactly like the sort of books I usually gravitate toward, but I enjoy branching out sometimes! I should also mention that this book was provided to me by Net Galley for consideration for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2018. I did read it for that purpose, though my review is considerably delayed.

My Thoughts:

Heroine Complex is a quirky, cartoonish superheroine story, which makes it a good read when you’re up for something light and fun.  The story follows two Asian American women, Evie Tanaka and Annie Chang (a.k.a. Aveda Jupiter), who live in a San Francisco where opening demonic portals have granted some people supernatural powers.  The story is fast-paced and easy to read, and Evie’s narration is pleasant and often funny. The style feels a little like a comic book, in the sense that everything is over-the-top. Descriptions tend to be kind of kitschy, and each character is an extreme version of their particular type. This makes the world feel very colorful and energetic, though it also adds some silliness into high stakes situations. 

While I enjoyed reading the story, I sometimes had difficulty believing in the relationships between the characters.  For instance, Aveda Jupiter and Evie are childhood friends, but I initially didn’t pick up on a friendship between them at all. Another key relationship in the story, Evie’s romance subplot, seems to happen really quickly.  A lot of the emotional development for both relationships take place in passionate, confessional conversations. Occasionally, I would have liked to see a little more change through actions rather than dialogue. Despite this, I still enjoyed seeing this story through Evie’s eyes, and I’m happy with how the conclusion ties up the various character arcs, as well as the main plot with the threat to San Francisco.  The story continues in Heroine Worship and Heroine’s Journey, the second and third books of the trilogy. 

My Rating: 3/5

Heroine Complex is a light, fun Asian American superheroine story, set in a San Francisco threatened by demons traveling through unpredictable portals.  The conversational and quirkily humorous narration by Evie Tanaka makes the story smoothly readable, and through her description the world feels vibrant and comic-book-like.  On the other hand, I felt like the character development relied a bit too much on emotional conversations as turning points, and I sometimes didn’t really buy the relationships.  In any case, it was an entertaining book, and I would recommend it to others looking for stories in this vein. 

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