by John David Anderson
First sentence: “I want you to know, right from the start, that I’m not evil.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Sidekicked
Content: There’s really nothing objectionable, and I ended up putting these in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore. It still feels slightly older than that, however. I just can’t place why.

Michael Morn is a villain. His adoptive father is one of those mad scientist types, who invents boxes that do… well, stuff. Like scrambling all the cameras, or maybe blowing up. And so the duo have committed crimes. Nothing extravagant, mostly just bank robberies when they needed the money.

But Michael also has a secret: he has unusual powers of persuasion. When he looks someone in the eye, he can compel them to do something. Sure, it has to be within the realm of possibility, but he can do it. So far, he and his dad have kept that power under wraps, only using it when they really have to. But with the arrival of The Dictator — a true super-villain — and his nemesis, the Comet, Michael’s life is about to change. And not necessarily for the better.

I remember liking the companion book to this, Sidekicked, but even so, when I picked this up, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. On the one hand, it’s a very clever take on superheroes and super powers. I like the world that Anderson has created, where being super isn’t necessarily an unusual thing and superheroes aren’t necessarily saviors of the world. And where villains are just people trying to scrape by.

That said, I felt that this one was missing something: A concrete ending, for starters. I won’t give anything away, but it left more questions than answers by the end. And it didn’t feel like a real middle grade (or even YA) novel, either. Michael did stuff, sure, but mostly he was reacting to the adults around him, and spent more time being their pawn (from this father, to the crime boss his father worked for, to The Dictator, in the end) and didn’t actually do anything. It felt like an elaborate set-up without much of a pay-off.

That said, it wasn’t bad either. Or, at least, not bad enough to put down. But it wasn’t satisfying in the end.

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