Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell

Title: The Rise of Renegade X
Author:  Chelsea M. Campbell
Publisher:  EgmontUSA
Genre: YA
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN: 1606840606  
Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she's been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father's too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he's not a hero in any way, or else he's stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.

To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad's "flying lessons" that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city--despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights--thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero.

  • Overall rating: 8/10
To buy this book:  IndieBound | Powell's | The Book Depository | Amazon
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Funny, clever, and full of daring deeds and evil plots, this story is bursting with entertaining characters and a lot of humor!  Chelsea M. Campbell's debut novel, The Rise of Renegade X, is fun and original.  Damien is the ultimate conflicted teenager.  He is half supervillain, half superhero, and 100% hilarious!  I can't wait to read more from this author!

What I Liked:
-     Damien!!  I loved his snarky attitude, his penchant for wicked pranks, his sarcastic sense of humor, his resistance to associate himself with anything heroic, his unrelenting determination to push himself toward villainy, and his frequent lapses into heroic behavior (always against his better judgement, of course).  
-     Damien's consistently hilarious internal monologue sets him apart from other YA protagonists.  I found his first person narrative voice funny, unique, and memorable.
-     The familial relationships in this book are very entertaining! Damien's antagonistic relationship with his step-sister Amelia particularly cracked me up. 
-     All the iconic superhero story elements are present - selfless good guys who fly around in capes, scheming mad scientists with secret laboratories, a best friend turned arch-nemesis, a sexy villainess, etc.  Yet this story remains completely original!
-     The main character's hero/villain complex manages to perfectly capture a universal coming of age conflict.  What teenager wants to be good all the time and to follow in the footsteps of their parents?  And yet what teenager doesn't secretly want the respect and admiration of their peers and parents?  This book may have a fantastical comic book backdrop, but Damien's resistance to following rules, his unwillingness to have his good deeds shape his reputation, his smarta** attitude, his tendency to hold a grudge, and his desire to be seen as a formidable foe who shouldn't be trifled with all make him a completely relatable teenage boy. 
-     This book has a lot more romance than I anticipated.
-     Sarah's quirky, experimental nature is amusing.  Whenever she and her wacky inventions appeared on the page, I wanted to see more of her.  She reminded me a little of Harry Potter's Luna Lovegood.  
-     Many YA books are intended to appeal to an exclusively female audience, but I think The Rise of Renegade X will be enjoyed by everyone. 

What I Wished:
-     I was hoping for a slightly different conclusion.  It is difficult to be specific about the aspects of the ending I would like to have seen resolved differently without sharing spoilers, so I will just say that I wanted both Damien's mother & Kat to have different places in his life at the end of the book.
-     A few plot twists seemed too convenient and a couple of scenes felt rushed, but it is such a fun and fast-paced read that you hardly have time to be bothered by such things.  

Readers who like humorous books and snarky protagonists will love The Rise of Renegade X!  Fans of  entertaining superhero stories, like Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog or Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles should also pick up this book.  If you would like to learn more about The Rise of Renegade X or Chelsea M. Campbell's upcoming projects, please check out her blogtwitter, and facebook

You can read the first chapter here!