Superman: Dawnbreaker (DC Icons Series)

by Matt de la Pena

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Bestselling author Matt de la Peña continues the DC Icons series with SUPERMAN: Dawnbreaker. Similar to the other books, this one goes back to Superman’s past as Clark, as he discovers his origins.

All his life, Clark has known he’s faster, stronger and just plain different from others. During freshman year, he accidentally injured his football teammate with his sheer force, and he only just grasped the concept that he could be dangerous. After hearing a girl crying in the distance at school, he finds Gloria Alvarez, who tells him people have been disappearing and something is definitely wrong with the town. Teaming up with his best friend Lana Lang, who runs the school paper, they discover that the problem is much deeper than it seems and Clark must utilize his powers for good. The Mankins Corporation is in town, a company that made a fortune on bringing cutting-edge technology to farm. Clark meets Bryan Mankins and his friend Lex Luther, as well as Dr. Wesley and his suspicious activities. As Clark and Lana dig deeper into the story, the darkness from beneath is exposed.

“Matt de la Peña crosses various threads with…a coming-of-age story, action scenes, science fiction and current immigration problems. [His] version of Clark represents the Man of Steel that we know so well; he stands for the hope of the people.”

This action-packed novel doubled as a high-school book in a way, as Clark is still in high school and must deal with the social hierarchy of football, or the gossip of the town. Because of Superman’s known “perfection,” it can be a struggle to write a sort of coming-of-age story, as Clark has basically been perfect all his life, but de la Peña succeeds in his telling of Clark’s origins. Instead of attacking a deep character development arc, our author twists together a story of mystery and discovery to keep the attention of his audience. Superman is an icon of our world, and his powers are well known. The excitement in watching Clark discover the full extent of his powers is incomparable to any other aspect of the book.

SUPERMAN: Dawnbreaker’s conflict comes from a very prevalent problem in today’s society: racism. The evil chemist laboratory has kidnapped several people and the one thing they have in common is darker skin. It was invigorating and satisfying to see Clark’s anger, fire and compassion when he discovers the targets of the company. I loved how de la Peña crafted a story that antagonizes racists and shows what even normal humans can do to stop it. Smallville encapsulates the United States and represents its conflicts. The prevalent immigration mistreatment in America is bluntly showcased underneath the villainous plans Clark hopes to destroy.

One of the villains of the story is revealed as a surprise, although most of the audience can assume who it is, based off prior knowledge of the DC Universe. However, his moral conscience breaks through and he strives to redeem himself, but I felt like that transition between the original evil intent was overcome way too quickly.

We are able to see Superman put on his suit for the first time and use it for the first time as well, knowing that he is truly Kal-El. He is able to embrace himself and discovers the reasons behind his powers. De la Peña creates the character we all know and love with his characteristics of bravery, sympathy and, most importantly, hope. Clark’s love interest is also introduced, Gloria Alvarez, as well as hints to his future girlfriend, Lois Lane.

Overall, Matt de la Peña crosses various threads with SUPERMAN with a coming-of-age story, action scenes, science fiction and current immigration problems. De la Peña’s version of Clark represents the Man of Steel that we know so well; he stands for the hope of the people.

Reviewed by Jeremy H., Teen Board Member on March 20, 2019

  • Publication Date: March 5, 2019
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 039954965X
  • ISBN-13: 9780399549656

Field Notes on Love

by Jennifer E. Smith

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British-born Hugo has had his life mapped out for him since the day he was born: he will attend his town’s University with his five other brothers and sisters. He is the youngest of a set of sextuplets and has always longed for something more: to get away and be his own person outside of the group. Unfortunately, Hugo was just dumped by his girlfriend a few weeks before they were supposed to embark on a train ride across the United States together.

“I am constantly blown away by [Smith’s] simplistic yet detailed writing style. [FIELD NOTES ON LOVE] does not disappoint.”

In comes Mae Campbell, an aspiring filmmaker, who was just rejected from her dream school’s film program. Despite this, Mae is looking for a new film to produce, something that will expand her horizons because she is convinced that was the reason why she was denied. Much to Hugo’s dismay, the train tickets were bought under his ex-girlfriends name, Margaret Campbell, and are non-transferable. On a whim, Hugo decides to offer a spare ticket online to any Margaret Campbell, and to his luck, Mae jumps at the opportunity to go on an adventure and get material for her next film.

I have had the opportunity to read all of Smith’s novels, and I am constantly blown away by her simplistic yet detailed writing style. This one does not disappoint. Her cultivation of the main characters, Hugo and Mae, but also the side characters, leads me to feel like I actually know them as people; she meticulously details their hopes, fears, aspirations, personality characteristics, etc. The reader is able to watch Hugo and all of his five siblings and parents interact, and she captures the supportive, loyal, loving relationship they have. Smith lived a few years of her life in the United Kingdom, and this is apparent with the numerous details she utilizes to describe Hugo’s home, packed with British words and their dialect. We are also able to get a glimpse of Mae’s family dynamic, with her two dads, and her grandmother who served as the sole female role model in her life.

Among many aspects of this story that I adored, the one I treasure the most is that this journey opened both Hugo and Mae’s eyes to new places, people and feelings. As the novel progresses, Mae has an epiphany that she will interview other passengers on the train, who are of varying demographics and use the material to create a film. To keep the interviews consistent, Mae asks the subjects three questions, two of which were taken from Hugo’s first correspondence with her and the third: what is love? In the end, Mae’s own definition of love begins to change while Hugo makes a critical decision about his future.

Highly recommended to any young adult reader who is searching for a quick, light novel to read, with hints of romance, trains and pizza. Smith has outdone herself again!

Reviewed by Ryan H., Teen Board Member on March 22, 2019

  • Publication Date: March 5, 2019
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • ISBN-10: 0399559418
  • ISBN-13: 9780399559419