Monday, August 3, 2015

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

Penelope Akk is a 13 year-old with unusual problems. She is the daughter of two retired superheroes whose identity aren't secret. Her dad, Brainy Akk, is a super-genius scientist and her mom is known as "The Audit" (she solved crime using maths and calculating the odds).

So Penelope (Penny for short) set very high standards for herself. The daughter of two of the most brilliant and intelligent superheroes in the world, Penny is the kind of girl who gets disappointed with a B. Not only that, she "needs" her superpower to kick in yesterday.

One day in middle school, it did. Her superpower is here, and she's more than a little excited about it. Problem is Penny wants to be a superhero. She's got superhero parents, so she "needs" to be a superhero. Unfortunately she's got the ultimate mad science power, letting/making her invent crazy gadgets she doesn't even remember making . Fortunately she got two super powered best friends and the trio look out for each other.

Even when one of them, Ray, decide to destroy the science fair of their middle school. However a superhero's sidekick was laying in wait and when the fight begins, Penny and her friend, Claire, join in alongside Ray. Thus was born "The Inscrutable Machine", the  youngest supervillain group in the world's long superpower history.

After getting labeled as supervillains, Penny and her friends discovered one important thing; they enjoyed being villains. More importantly, Penny learns that she's very good at it. Thus begins the legend of the supervillain "Bad Penny"!

First off, do not let the cover or age of the main character fool you. Author Richard Roberts has managed to create a book about superheroes in a way that's quirky, fun, and fascinating. Usually YA (young adult) books appeal strictly to the young but "Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain" present interesting characters and a fascinating plot that will appeal to older people as well.

Penny and her friends are complex, realistic people that are complex, realistic 13 year-olds! Growing up around famous (if retired) superheroes, the trio are amazingly competent but at their age, they do still make silly decisions. However they learned from their mistakes and take advice from older, more experienced heroes/villains like they are supposed to.

Like most 13 year-olds, they also get carried away sometimes. When they meet up with a famous superhero during a fight, one of the first thing they want to do is to get his autograph! When they meet up with their first real supervillain group, one of their regrets was forgetting to get the villains' autograph. Also they could have stop their mischief at any time, but were having too much fun to truly consider it. Something even Penny, who actually wants to be a hero, privately admits to.

I also love the relationship between the trio. Penny may be the leader of the team but the trio are friends first and they listened to each other, sometimes to their deterrent. However they get into trouble together and they get out of it together. Their team is smaller and weaker than others so they rely on teamwork (and the fact most heroes don't take them seriously).

One thing about the book I really like was Penny's power. I loved the way Roberts wrote it. When her super-invention powers kicks in, they are called "episodes" and Roberts wrote them in a way that I have never read before. When the "episodes" happened, Penny could direct her powers in the direction she wants but she doesn't have control of it. In a way, the power controlled her and at first she can't even remember what she built. As the book goes on, Penny could direct her powers to build something she wants, but the process of building the gadget is a total blur to her. It is so perfectly mad-scientist that I can't believe no one had tried it before.

Of course the book is not perfect. I found it to be pretty unrealistic that the trio prevailed every time. I'm willing to stomach a little of it, this is a superhero book after all, but outside one battle against a young superheroine called Generic Girl, the trio came out on top every time. The last battle in the library was especially unrealistic. The other group was bigger, more experienced, and actually took the kids seriously. Sorry but I just can't accept The Inscrutable Machine winning against those odds.

Also there are many characters that just disappeared after showing up. Master Scorpion and Bull are characters I want to read more of but both disappeared after showing up for their one brief scene. I especially hope Bull will show up in the sequel.

Now, I know books about superheroes has a checkered history but if you need to read one superhero book in your life; pick up "Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain". This book is great and I highly recommend it. It was vibrant fun and I look forward to the sequel.

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