SUMMARY: Joshua Dread is not having the best middle school experience so far. Between bullies stalking him and his best friend Milton and trying to protect his supervillain parents’ identities, Joshua really does not need his latest news: he’s developing superhero powers of his own. Will he be a superhero or a super-villain? Why are so many super-villains disappearing? And who is the mysterious new girl Sophie, and what is she trying to hide?
REVIEW: In a word: typical. Upper-elementary and middle school readers–boys especially–will enjoy this book, but for me, it just does not stand out much. It’s got the same predictability of the Disney movie Sky High, minus its humor and charm. The characters are pretty stereotypical: the school bullies, the mysterious new girl, the nerdy best friend, the angst-filled protagonist, the busy parents. It’s not anything new or spectacular, nor is it terrible rubbish. Kids will like it though, and that’s really worth a lot in my book.
One thing I did really find interesting is the blurry line between Joshua Dread‘s superheroes and super-villains. I especially love how the media in the story picks a black-or-white way to present the “heroes” on the news, and that’s who the common citizens rally behind. But the superheroes and super-villains in Joshua Dread are not so easy to define. I love how Captain Justice is not pure good, and the Dread Duo are not pure evil. Rather, their goodness depends on which side of the argument you fall on. This is a great segue a discussion about how perspective is everything and there are two sides to every story. I love that!
THE BOTTOM LINE: It’s not the greatest literature out there, but the boys will like it and it will be easy to book talk.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order.
READALIKES: Sidekicks (Ferraiolo); H.I.V.E. The Higher Institute of Villainous Education (Walden)
- Overall: 3/5
- Creativity: 3/5
- Characters: 2/5–stereotypes
- Engrossing: 2/5
- Writing: 3/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: none
- Violence: mild; superhero violence
- Drugs/Alcohol: none