Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell

Title: The Rise of Reneage X

Author: Chelsea Campbell

Pages: 352

Received from: Travelling Arc Tours


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 only has 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—thwart the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keep 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.

Damien had spent his whole life believing himself to be pure supervillain--despite the mystery that is his father. But on the day of his sixteenth birthday, instead of a v appearing on his thumb, he gets himself the mythical Third Letter--x. The apparent offspring of a villain and a hero, Damien knows he'd be the laughing stock of the villainous world if this gets out, not to mention completly ineligable for the top Supervillain school in the country. To better understand the severity of this issue, he goes on a hunt to find his superhero daddy, and finds out he's the host of a kid's safety program him and his BFFL Kat have mocked since they were youngins. Though more attractive a sperm donor then his less extravigant options, Damien is dismayed. Especially when BabyDaddy insists on having Damien spend the next six weeks with him.

Okay, is it possible to adore a book as much as I adored Renegade X? I think not.

I loved the entire concept from the start--world full of superheroes, story set in a New York City like metropolis with the highest villain/hero concentration in the world. And, like any city with a high concentration of anything, there are many a-colorful person. Has-been heroes taking jobs as dog trainers, bullies and mean girls wearing gloves on their right hands as a fashion statement to pretend they're villains. Folks born with a fucked up gene that decides for them what they will be: villain, hero or civilian. Criminal, savior or victim. And those really are the only options.

Damien was, hands down, the least-whiniest sixteen year old I've ever had the privelage to read about. Sure, he was sarcastic and snarky (my people!) but in a way that didn't make me want to rip out his intestines and choke him with it. That, my friends, is a rare treat indeed. I could totes picture this kid running around bitchslapping babydaddies and causing some X-rated chaos (ah-oooooooh!), and ya'll know if there's one thing I love, its a realistic protagonist. (Ignoring that fact that it took a novel about superheroes to get there).

I loved the whole black sheep angle Campbell took when sending Damien to live with his superhero family. For a few pages there, it felt like I was reading one of those middle grade shenanigan-laced adventures that ya'll know you love. You know, if everyone stopped making those hit-or-miss sex jokes.

The only problems I really had with Renegade X was the romance and the end. The romance, because (like everything else these days) it felt forced and a little out of place. Don't get me wrong, Damien and Kat were cute together and all that, but I didn't really see how they were in a relationship. Because they already tried that, see, but she used her Evil ShapShifting Power to make out with his best friend at a party a year ago, so I'm like, um, doesn't that warrant permanent seperation? I think so.

The end was what really drove me batshit. SPOILERS When Damien chooses to leave his eeeevil mother, who raised him, in favor of the superhero family he just met because its the right thing to do! I was about ready to tear this shit a new one. Whats this saying to you? That there can only be black and white, and you better pick white or yer going downstairs? Did it never occur to him that abondoning the women who made your meals and kissed your boo-boos would be just as negative a reflection on your character? And you can do this to your mother (who's a perfectly nice lady, aside from the whole mad scientist shtick) because she's a villain, but you can't dump your girlfriend, who's also a villain, only she made out with your best friend on your birthday while you were dating? Are you fucking serious?

So, aside from some obvious Good v. Evil cliches, Renegade X had the best protagonist I've read in a long time, and I sincerly hope there's more of him in Ms. Campbell's writing future.

Rating: 8 out of 10


Jodie said...

That sounds really amazing, great concept. Thanks for setting everythign out so clearly in your review.

Oh and supervillian powers - you has them, what would you do?

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