It feels like in our current political environment, the need for diverse books and stories about people in different places with different identities — both real and fictional — is only growing. The Radius of Us is the second novel by Marie Marquardt dealing with the Latinx immigrant community around Atlanta, GA. Dreadnought: Nemesis-Book One is the debut novel of trans author April Daniels, and is set in a version of our world where superheroes are real, and the new hero to inherit the Dreadnought mantle just happens to be a 15-year-old trans girl who is yet to come out to her parents.
The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt
Set in the suburbs of Atlanta, similar to Marquardt’s first novel, The Radius of Us has two main characters, Gretchen and Phoenix, and the chapters alternate between their points of view. Gretchen was victim and witness to a gang-related crime in Atlanta and now struggles with anxiety and PTSD that prevent her from going to school, and sometimes from even leaving the house. Phoenix fled his hometown in El Salvador with his younger brother to get away from a gang he had been forced into, and now he must make a case as an asylum seeker in Atlanta while his brother stays in detention in Texas. When Gretchen and Phoenix meet, they discover that they can help each other in surprising ways.
Marquardt manages the dual perspectives in this book well, unlike some books where the shifts in perspective can feel forced or used mainly as a plot device to reveal something to the reader. Gretchen and Phoenix have distinct and compelling voices, and as their friendship developed it became very hard for me to put this book down.
Dreadnought: Nemesis-Book One by April Daniels
Danny Tozer has enough trouble trying to hide her true self from her angry, verbally abusive father. But when she witnesses the death of superhero Dreadnought at the hands of a new supervillain named Utopia, Dreadnought passes on his superhero powers to her and suddenly her secret isn’t a secret anymore. Inheriting the mantle gives her a magical transition — no surgery required — and while Danny tries to decide whether she’s ready to be a superhero, she also has to deal with her father’s desperate attempts to “fix” her and turn her back into a boy.
This first book in a series is a strong debut for Daniels, and I can’t wait to read more of Danny’s story as she comes into her own as a superhero. Daniels balances the struggles that Danny faces at home with the teenaged excitement of new superpowers. It’s a fun story, but not without its moments of depth and heartache. I didn’t know how much I wanted a trans superhero story until I read Dreadnought, and now I can’t wait for the sequel to come out later this year.
Both of these stories feel like stories that need to be told, but for different reasons. The Radius of Us puts a face and story to the many undocumented immigrants in this country, people fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries and hoping for a better life in the United States. Dreadnought balances a touching story about a trans teenager who is afraid of her father and his anger with a rollicking superhero story about how superpowers can’t fix everything. They were both a delight to read, even in the sad or challenging moments, and I would highly recommend them both to pretty much anyone I know.
These reviews were made possible thanks to ARCs from Netgalley. The Radius of Us was released on Jan. 17th. You can purchase a copy through IndieBound, or request it from your local library. Dreadnought was released on Jan. 24th. You can purchase it through Indiebound, or request it from your local library.