Dreadnought (Nemesis #1) by April Daniels, a trans woman. Published by Diversion Publishing, 2017.
Dreadnought is the first book of the Nemesis trilogy. The story is set in New Port City (think Seattle meets New York City) in an alternative universe of the future where superpowers are real. Danny Tozer is a 15-year-old trans girl who isn’t out to anyone but herself, until the famed white-caped superhero Dreadnought dies at her feet and passes his superpowers on to her. Instantly, Danny’s body is transformed into her physical ideal, which outs her immediately to everyone she knows. Her Dad wants her to hide at home until he can find medical help to turn her back into his son. Danny’s best guy friend feels he is entitled to date her. The Legion Pacifica, the band of white caped superheroes on the side of good versus evil, can’t agree on whether Danny should be allowed to keep her powers, or pass them on to someone more “worthy.” Some white capes are reluctant to accept a transgender Dreadnought into their ranks. Meanwhile, Danny knows what she will do.
From Chapter Two: I’m free. I’m finally free… My pants are pinching me pretty hard around my hips. I feel my face and the scratchy peach fuzz is all gone. I laugh, and the sound is beautiful. I’m a girl. A real girl at last.
Danny will not let anyone take her new body and superpowers away from her. As she tries to master her powers, which include super strength and flight, she must also explain to her parents and her friends why she has suddenly become the woman she always knew she was inside. As Danny navigates this new life that dropped on her so unexpectedly, she gets pulled in many different directions by those who wish to influence her decisions.
On one level, this is a page-turning adventure about superheroes and their fight for good against evil. Dreadnought’s murderer still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction, and Danny wants to help bring this super-villain to justice. Danny becomes friends with a gray cape friend named Calamity who tries to persuade Danny that crime-solving isn’t always a matter of black versus white. But Calamity’s methods can seem impulsive and violent for Danny. Finally, this is a story that explores Danny’s gender identity and her acceptance by family, friends, and society in a loving poignant way. Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are much more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Danny’s struggles are relatable and ring true on every level.
Check out this interview with author April Daniels. In the interview, April is asked if she had a specific audience in mind when writing Dreadnought. She answers, “Yeah, transgender girls, ages 14 and up, and especially those who aren’t out yet. I was writing for a primarily trans audience; cis people could come along for the ride or not, as they chose.”
This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans board member Barb Shumer, who is a retired public librarian.