This is a big damn book.
No really, it’s 600 pages and that put me off for a long while. But I finally did pick it up and damn if I didn’t read all 600 pages in a day.
This book is a teenage superhero nerd’s wet dream. It’s insanely readable, as well as being cinematic in feel with excellent little action scenes. The writing is smooth, straightforward, and engaging with how the author builds the story from our tragic villain origin story and beyond.
Renegades follows Nova (shockingly her real name, not the superhero one), a young woman who witnessed the murder of her family when she was young. In her trauma, she blames The Renegades, a group of superheroes who protect the city (the X-Men if the X-Men were gayer and more diverse) but whom she also feels let her family down when they needed them most. All grown up, Nova is a bonafide teenage supervillain working with a crime syndicate. Seeing an opportunity to infiltrate the group, Nova tries out for the now very commercialized and revered merry band of do-gooders.
I can’t knock the writing, but I do knock the characters. There seems to be this new age push for our YA heroines to be dark and angsty. The problem is… that is all Nova is. She is dark and broody and grieving for her family and her uncle, and grieving for this odd version of freedom that she never really knew. There is nothing more beyond that. Everything she ever thinks or says is tinged with this depressing sort of angst. She’s humorless and humorless heroines with little personality beyond their “mission” are boring. There, I said it.
So moving her aside, let’s talk about some of the side characters. Adrian (“Sketch” which is a terrible superhero name, come on. It could have been “Da Vinci” or like “The Architect” or something.) His lineage as the son of the foremost superheroes is FASCINATING. Especially since it looks like he clearly struggles with an inferiority complex and warring loyalties. I would have loved it if the book was split up more evenly with his plot points front and center.
Max! I want to know everything about Max and lovingly take him out of the “child genius murder weapon” trope that the author has put him in. He sparks joy and I want more.
The pacing is actually pretty good throughout the story– there are no moments I am abjectly bored in– but the story never really goes anywhere? The ending (600! Pages! Later!) was incredibly anticlimactic and we did not get any real dramatic tension. All we got was a “plot twist” that any idiot could have called from literally the first chapter. It was frustrating.
I want to know what happens next, because I do think plot-wise, this book is interesting. I just don’t know if I want to commit 1,200 pages of reading to it.