By Lee Bacon
Growing up is hard enough, but tack on Super Villain parents bent on destroying the world, zombies, a hostile houseplant, bullies, and having spontaneous combustion powers of your own, and you’ll begin to see what Joshua Dread’s life is like. With his parents, The Dread Duo, threatening the world every other week, life is pretty complicated, and moving from town to town makes making friends hard (and keeping them even harder); nevermind trying to keep his parent’s identity secret. Then, he discovers he has a Gyft–spontaneous combustion.
In his new town if Sheepsdale, Joshua is not the ‘new kid’ for very long, as a girl named Sophie shows up soon after he does and they become friends. Soon Joshua finds out that Sophie also has a Gyft and that’s not all. Sophie has another secret…her father is Captain Justice, the Dread Duo’s arch nemesis. When Joshua’s parents, and many other villains, are kidnapped by smoke monsters, all clues point to one conclusion. Can Joshua and Sophie work together and save the villains? Can they still be friends since their parents are polar opposites? Will Joshua use his powers for good, or follow in his family’s footsteps?
What I liked
This was a quick and fun read. I have a soft spot for superheroes, and villains, so I went into this story knowing I would probably enjoy it. Joshua is dealing with some interesting issues unique to hero-kind, but they do parallel the normal kid experience. Who isn’t embarrassed by their parents? Who doesn’t worry about fitting in? I mean sure, not all of us have to worry about having pencils explode in our hands or leaving scorched butt marks in the carpet, but can’t those be seen as metaphors for raging emotions and acne?
Working through friendships and seeing that life is not all black and white is all a part of growing up. Joshua makes his own choices about how he will progress through life, and I thought that was a refreshing take. Yes, there are villains, yes there is danger, but the kids work together, and save the adults through know-how, quick-thinking, and a little luck. Not solely through superpowers.
I also really liked the chapter headings, which had pithy remarks about what was coming, and sometimes had excerpts from the Gyfted handbook. These served to brighten up the more dangerous and serious aspects of the story–not that there were many over-serious parts.
What I didn’t like
I didn’t have many issues with this story. It was a fun read and the story kept me hooked. I finished it in about 3 days. I do wish that Milton wasn’t quite so annoying. But, everyone needs that sidekick.
All in all, this is a great read. Recommended for grades 4-7.