Monday, 17 March 2014

Review: Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain

Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain
Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those cases where I enjoyed a book despite very serious suspension-of-disbelief issues. Accordingly, it gets four stars.

(The following could be considered a bit spoilery, since I discuss things that happen in the book that broke my suspension of disbelief.)

OK, so the main character, Penny, is the child of two superheroes. Her father is a supergenius technologist, and her mother is basically the detective aspect of Batman without the angst.

They're aware that Penny's mad science superpowers are starting to cut in, though they don't realise that they have, in fact, fully cut in. She uses them to give her two friends, Ray and Claire, superpowers as well.

Through a series of events involving their school's Mean Girl, who turns out to be a superhero sidekick, the trio end up getting labelled as supervillains in their super identities. They recognise the mean girl, but she doesn't, apparently, recognise them, despite the fact that Ray's costume is just his normal clothes (including a distinctive hat) plus a mask and a jacket, and the fact that he has a distinctive accent. The mean girl is even responsible for naming Penny's supervillain persona Bad Penny, even though, as I say, she apparently doesn't know that they are the same person.

Claire and Ray also have code names based closely on their real names.

Here's the suspension of disbelief problem. Although several other people, including a supervillain leader, figure out their identities, Penny's parents are clueless. No idea. This despite the fact that her mother's powers are ideally suited for figuring out exactly this kind of thing, and despite the fact that really, it's pretty obvious.

I mean, if there was a powerful "Clark Kent effect" mad science device involved, that would be one thing, though it would also spoil the plot point where the supervillain leader figures out the secret and blackmails them, but there is nothing in the book that makes this blindness of Penny's mother's remotely plausible.

Also, by a suspiciously convenient coincidence, the trio manage to pick up a powerful artefact that they didn't know existed because Penny randomly decides to pretend she's looking for jade as a distraction from something else, and this thing is made of jade.

Also, Claire is apparently extremely good at finding out things using Google that, if they could be found out using Google, would lead to crimes being foiled before they were even started. Probably by Penny's mother.

Also, the kids are way too powerful and successful for 13-year-olds - though I accept that as a genre trope.

So, suspension of disbelief: broken. Oddly, though, I found I didn't mind that much. The characters are fun (and reasonably believable as early teens), the superheroics are fun, the whole thing is enjoyable. You already have to suspend a lot of disbelief for supers in the first place; why not a bit more?

The editing is about what I've come to expect from a small press: not awful, but a long way from great. There are about 30 minor issues, mostly missing words and incompletely revised sentences (seriously, read it backwards, or upside down, or aloud, editors), but the author also appears unaware of the need for an apostrophe in expressions like "after a few minutes' wait", and uses this construction several times. Again, it wasn't bad enough to drop a star.

Definitely on the low end of the four-star spectrum, but overall an enjoyable light read.

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