The Genetic Wars that turned most of the planet into a wasteland are over. The so-called “dregs” (short for “DNA regulars”) and superpowered “Supergenics” now live separately from each other: the Supergenics in the shiny towers of Jupitar City, the dregs across the river in the squat concrete buildings of the boroughs. But Supergenic children are still born to dreg parents, and under repressive laws must be sent to live with their own kind. To find these special few, every teen faces their Testing Day. When her turn comes, socially isolated Caitlin Feral is determined to Manifest superpowers. If she fails, she faces a lifetime of loneliness and drudgery in the boroughs. But how much is she willing to sacrifice to be the supergirl she’s always wanted to be? And when she uncovers dark secrets kept by both sides, does she dare start another war to reveal the truth?
Author Steven Bereznai is a Toronto based author and Travel Writer, who has previously published three other books, as well as having his short stories featured in various anthologies, and articles featured in a huge amount of publications. An avid water polo player, registered hypnotist and pilates instructor (not all at the same time. I hope), he’s also a keen fan of comics and superheroes – something that serves him extremely well in this tale.
“I Want Superheroes” is a book that manages to find a rather unique balance – the world is a dark, grim, dystopian one with very little light, but a lightness can be found in the characters, and, in rather touching scenes, their escape into the world of comics and superheroes. These characters live in a world inhabited by superpowered beings, but face injustice and mistreatment every day so it’s rather fitting then, that several of the characters find their escape in the fictional comics that once filled their world – comics that bear a very strong resemblance to those we read in our own Universe. Despite the huge popularity of superheroes in our media today, comics still rarely get acknowledged as pieces of literature, despite some storylines (the Dark Phoenix Saga and God Loves Man Kills are two of my favourite examples), being far better than many oft quoted works of classic literature – and modern graphic novels like “Persepolis” and “Safe Home” helping prove that the comic industry can give a huge amount more than many people may give it credit for. Comics are used here both as an influence and a catalyst – and Bereznai’s comic book knowledge shines through.
Caitlin is a strong lead character – her actions make a lot of sense, and Bereznai dares to take her to perhaps a slightly darker place than the lead is often put in in Dystopian YA books. In addition, she’s a layered, flawed and well developed character – intelligent, driven and talented enough to be a compelling character who stands above others, but normal enough to be relatable to the reader. Other characters too provide interesting counterpoints to Caitlin’s story – Normand in particular is both memorable and, as the story develops, an extremely intriguing character whose motivations are far more complex than one may feel initially. Bereznai writes teenagers well – even growing up in a dark world, they maintain the same complex feelings that regular teenagers do, and the author understands these. Older characters don’t just serve as antagonists or wallpaper here either – Caitlin’s mother is given an emotional backstory and hugely understandable motives, making her a character I’d be keen to see more of in future books. The characters being so well drawn really lifts this book above a lot of other YA books, and they work extremely well alongside the clever, surprising plot, and the general world building that Bereznai has done. In fact, the world he’s built is such a compelling one – similar to our own and yet so, so different, that I’d definitely like to read about how it came to be, and how it’ll change going forward.
Original, thrilling , and packed full of brilliant characters who take the reader on a twisting, turbulent adventure, “I Want Superpowers” is an entry to a universe that, no matter how dark or dystopian, I’m extremely eager to return to.