Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Basia rates it: 4.5/5
Connor rates it: 4.5/5
This book has everything you could want and then some: varied and interesting women with occupations from blogger to superhero to bodyguard; a tall, curmudgeonly man who wears black; childhood friendships; a healthy appreciation for karaoke. While the beginning takes some perseverance to get through, it’s well worth it. In the blink of an eye, it sucks you in and keeps hold of you until you go from narrow-eyed trepidation to wide-eyed obsession.
The beautiful thing is the tone Kuhn uses: equal parts lighthearted and serious, it tackles real issues without detracting from the narrative. It is never preachy or too on the nose but is enough to leave you considering the issues mentioned, however fleetingly. Evie is hilariously direct and bracingly self-aware in a way not often found in millennial narrators. The relationships–platonic and romantic–are approached with a realness that is refreshing, excising the unnecessary cliche dramatics in favor of more relatable, honest conversations.
And that’s without including the totally great outfits, kickass fight scenes, sex scenes that are equal parts endearing and hilarious, and copious pop culture references that felt apt but never heavy-handed. Not to mention all of the Lucky Charms.
From lady Asian superheroes and pop culture references (which, impressively, did not have the overbearing, heavy-handed feel I’ve come to expect from such things) to karaoke nights and lady bodyguards to a brooding scientist and childhood friends… I was pretty much destined to love this book.
Kuhn aptly navigates the difficult task of keeping the prose light and fun without sweeping away the struggles and sorrows the characters encounter, making Heroine Complex one of those few novels that manages to tackle the weight of the world–racism! sexism! the male centered gaze! dead parents! absentee parents! disappointed parents! fanged demons from the Otherworld!–without leaving the reader staggering underneath that weight. I was especially delighted to see how deftly Kuhn handles the dynamics of childhood friends, giving them the gravitas I have often noted in my own. The frankness of Evie’s narrative voice is refreshing, humorous, and thought provoking. The genuine care and frustration between herself and her fellow characters is much the same. I look forward to seeing what they do after this book.
There are also a bunch of kickass fight scenes AND a karaoke match to the death–am I exaggerating? Am I not? Who knows!–and I am ALL about both of those.