Written by Shuvern Yeoh
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: 2017, Macmillan Children’s Book
“If people wanted to stand up for themselves or protect their loved ones or do what they believe in their hearts is the right thing to do, then they would do it. If they wanted to be heroic, they would find ways to be heroic, even without supernatural powers.”
Calling out to all my geek peeps! With all the hype about the new Avengers movie coming out in April, we just cannot wait! And if you’re anything like me (someone who is pretty much cursed) you too must suffer a month of exams during the release of the movie. In dire times like these, a pick-me-up is much needed, and I have got just the thing.
This book is set in a world where prodigies (people with supernatural abilities) are oppressed and shunned by society, leading to a group of them revolting against the societal cruelty against their kind. They call themselves the Anarchists, and they’re led by the telekinetic Ace Anarchy. And before any of you can even think about it: no, it is not a rip-off of the X-Men franchise. The book is completely original, so don’t knock it before you try it!
As I was saying, Ace Anarchy succeeds in his conquest to obliterate the government and raze society to the ground (See? Clearly not X-Men. Magneto has consistently failed to achieve this); and chaos and destruction reign supreme. But out of the ruins of society emerge the Renegades, a group of vigilantes who defend the helpless. The Renegades soon defeat the Anarchists and become the de facto government to rebuild society. The book, aside from all its teenage drama, addresses the constantly shifting scales of governance and the complexities of a flawed justice system. For example, the scattered Anarchists, although now inactive (*cough*), have been forced to live in a grimy subway and receive routine ‘check-ups’ by a minority of the Renegades who cause excessive damage to the Anarchists’ home and ridicule the Anarchists themselves as a show of arrogance and dominance. Ironically, the citizens see only the gilded façade of the Renegades, and not the underlying injustices.
The story unfolds through the fluctuation between two different perspectives: that of Nova, an Anarchist who goes undercover to infiltrate the Renegades’ base, and Adrian, a Renegade boy whose parents lead the Renegades. Both keep dark secrets that instil a sense of self-doubt in their principles. Nova, being both a double agent and Ace’s niece, was initially adamant that the Renegades were just glorified bullies parading about as heroes, having vowed revenge on those who failed to save her family and who killed her uncle. Yet as the story progresses, she wavers in her beliefs after getting to know Adrian and his team.
Adrian, on the other hand, impersonates a hero that appears at first glance to be invincible, an alter ego created initially to aid the Renegades in their pursuit of justice. Having two of the most iconic figures in the organisation as his parents, he places elevated expectations on himself, thinking he’s made for more than just recon missions, but this arrogant perspective and alter ego of his ends up hurting one of his friends. Although superheroes, our two main characters face the same typical problems every teenager faces: indecisiveness, underconfidence and recklessness. This makes their characters all the more appealing to our generation as we can totally relate (Seriously, I still have trouble deciding which intake to apply to for my university application).
The setting and worldbuilding of the story is another interesting factor. It’s set in a decrepit and crumbling city trying to rebuild itself after the destruction that the Age of Anarchy has brought about, and the costume designs give light to a comical aspect that gives the book its charm. While the costumes of the Renegade leaders, with their tights and capes, are a tribute to the old-fashioned comics of the DC and Marvel universe; the much more modern and spiffy uniforms of the younger generation are just like the newer DC and MCU reboots, so this really is the best of both worlds.
I’ve saved the best bit for last: this book is also a rather quick read! The plot is so fast-paced and gripping, you won’t even miss the booming sounds and graphics of a movie. All you need is your imagination and a cup of hot tea, and you’re all set. So if superhero/teenage drama tropes are your thing, be sure to look out for this book on your next book hunting trip! Happy reading, everyone!