It has been a long time since a book kept me up at night. But Kindles make impulse-buys so easy, and what started as research ended after midnight when my eyes rebelled and I had to stop. Some background: I have recently self-published my first novel, Wearing the Cape, on Amazon for the Kindle. WtC is a superhero story, and it’s had a few buyers so far and some good reviews, but Amazon has that Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought function so you can see what other readers with your interests are also enjoying. There are not a lot of superhero stories out there, so my Also Bought bar isn’t very long, and one of the entries is Charlotte Powers: Power Down. Yesterday night I decided I wanted to see how another author had translated superheroes (indigenous to comic-books, a very visual medium) into literature. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from it–the product description made it sound, well, “fluffy.”
Boy was I wrong, and my mistake cost me half a night’s sleep. Power Down is a YA novel, and Charlotte Powers is a plucky 15-year old wannabe superhero. The only problem is the Age of Heroes seems to have passed; her parents fought all the big fights before she was born, and, villains vanquished, they live in a secluded base on an island somewhere. There they train, and monitor the world, but don’t interfere in “normal” problems. This isn’t good enough for Charlotte, who wants to Use Her Powers For Good, and use them Now. After what is probably the hundredth argument, her parents decide that, at the very least, it’s time to get her off the island and into the world; she can get socialized and build a public Clark Kent type identity. So they send her off to live with an uncle and go to public school. This, of course, is where it all goes horribly, horribly wrong.
I read Charlotte Powers: Power Down in two sittings separated by too little sleep. Although I’d have to label it YA, adults will enjoy it. (I’m an adult. I enjoyed it. The conclusion follows logically.) Ben White has great respect for the superhero genre; in Power Down he plays it straight–the humor comes from Charlotte’s reactions and thoughts, not from the plot (which turns out to be deadly-serious). There is pathos along with the humor, and a great deal of wisdom. As my tired eyes can attest, it’s a page-turner, and now that I’m done, I really, really hope the nature of the title means it’s only a first installment. And I’m going looking for more Ben White books.