Earlier this year, I read Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m A Supervillain, a fun romp about a middle schooler who also happens to be a mad scientist in a Cape Punk world.
(Cape Punk is a very loosely defined genre about superhero stuff done ‘realistic’ It seems to get slapped on any work when it’s convenient. Frankly, I can see an argument for the original treatments of Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four counting as Cape Punk :D)
The books definitely falls on the lighter side of Cape Punk. At least in Los Angeles, the super-human community is very self-policing. Murder and mass destruction isn’t tolerated by villains OR heroes. So it’s a pretty safe environment for a junior high metahumans to figure things out.
And I just got around to reading the second book, Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon. The title gives away a major event and the book is actually a bit of a genre shift. And I don’t think the genre shift really works for the series favor.
The first book is not just about Penny becoming a super-powered person. It is all about her relationships. With her two best friends who gain powers either influenced by Penny or flat out from her. With her schoolmates. With the adult superhero community. With the adult supervillain community. And, of course, with her parents.
And it was good stuff. And none of it was resolved.
Book 2? Penny and Ray and Claire fly off into space and have steampunk, clockwork punk adventures. Away from basically all the conflict which drove the first book.
It’s actually worse than that.
The plot was disjointed to the point that I couldn’t figure out what the characters were trying to accomplish. They were constantly shifting to new locations and I kept feeling like I was missing the connecting pieces.
It felt like Richard Roberts had come up with this neat setting with at least three different alien groups and two human factions from the first and second World Wars and was just using Penny and company as a way to show it off.
The best part of the book was Remmy Fawkes. She’s an eleven-year-old mad scientist who is constantly being used as a pawn in other people’s plans. She has a genuine character arc as she takes control of her life, albeit with a lot of conflict with Penny.
Honestly, a stand-alone book with Remmy as the protagonist would have made a lot more sense.
The next book looks like it’s back to middle school and family. So I’ll read it and hope it catches the magic of the first book.