Monday, April 17, 2017

Heroine Complex - "I Am Not A Superhero"

Being a superheroine is hard.
Working for one is even harder.

The tagline on the back cover of Heroine Complex probably describes the story of Evie Tanaka better than any words I could say. Author Sarah Kuhn has written a fun superhero romp through the streets of San Francisco, telling the story of Evie Tanaka, personal assistant to San Francisco's premier (and only) super hero, Aveda Jupiter - better known to Evie as Annie Chang, her childhood friend with whom she grew up. Evie does everything for Aveda: she documents her adventures, she cleans up after Aveda's adventures (making sure Aveda's outfits are stylish and spotless), and she puts up with her boss's tirade of temper tantrums behind closed doors. And she does all of it with a smile on her face, because handling all of this helps her keep a check on her own problem - Aveda isn't the only one in town with super powers.

Kuhn opens the book right in the middle of all the action. Aveda is fighting demon-possessed cupcakes (yes, you read that right!) in a local cupcake store in San Francisco. Evie is present, doing a live video feed of all the action for Aveda's countless fans. Also present is Lucy Valdez, Aveda's bodyguard and personal trainer (as well as weapons expert). Kunh provides plenty of action in that first chapter, but at the same time, readers get a bit of the history that has led to this moment - the fact that portals from the Otherworld have been opening lately throughout San Francisco, and the demons that come through basically take an imprint of the first thing they see, then legions of that particular item, demon-possessed, suddenly start attacking. To date, Aveda Jupiter has been able to handle each and every portal attack with precision and crowd adoration - until today, when the filming of her adventure reveals a horrifying secret - Aveda Jupiter has a zit!

And that pretty much sets the tone for the book - there's plenty of humor, but a good mix of drama and super-heroics as well. Kuhn gives readers a well-rounded group of characters - and while some are more or less background supporting cast (such as Lucy, as well as Evie's sister Bea and Evie and Aveda's longtime friend, Scott), readers get a great deal of background on Aveda and Evie, as well as eventually Nate (the group's resident scientist). There is some unresolved tension and issues between Bea and Evie ... Between Scott and Aveda ... between Evie and Nate ... and even some unspoken tension building between Evie and Aveda - - and when Evie is forced to assume Aveda's identity and pretend to be the superhero that everyone adores, all of the stress and tension that Evie has kept under wraps and in control for so many years comes to the front - and literally explodes in a ball of fire!

While the demon-fighting and the in-house squabbles certainly stays to the forefront, there is an underlying mystery of who is opening those portals, what do the mysterious stones they keep finding after the portals close mean, and how in the world can they get rid of that annoying blogger, Maisy Kane, who claims to be Aveda's biggest fan and "best friend," yet seems to always cause them more problems with each blog post? And, of course, we can't forget the boiling (literally!) love story that blooms between Evie and Nate - who make a good pair, by the way - and how that is impacted when Nate's past comes back to haunt him.

Of course, as well with any good book, the resolution not only brings out the identity of the one who has been opening portals (and it's not at all who you would suspect!), but it also sees Evie come to terms with who she is and how she interacts with the people around her and opens the door for a world of new adventures for Aveda Jupiter and Evie Tanaka!

As you can see, this book has a lot of story packed into its 376 pages, and it's definitely well worth the read.  I am normally a fan of series books, not single, one-offers - but this one caught my eye on the shelf, and after passing it by several times, I finally picked it up with a coupon I had, and boy, am I glad I did.  A part of my hopes Kuhn eventually does a sequel to this; but, if she doesn't, it's still one book that will stay in my collection.

RATING:  10 bowls of Lucky Charms (without the purple marshmallows) out of 10 for giving readers a book that has it all - super-heroics, adventure, sci-fi, romance, mystery, and demon-possessed cupcakes, statues, and movie screens!

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