Title: Junior Hero Blues
Author: J.K. Pendragon
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 216 Pages
Category: YA, Urban Fantasy, Superheroes
At a Glance: This book was such a fun, refreshing read. There was great action, a sweet little romance, and enjoyable characters.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Last year, Javier Medina was your average socially awkward gay high schooler with a chip on his shoulder. This year, he’s . . . well, pretty much the same, but with bonus superpowers, a costume with an ab window to show off his new goods, and a secret identity as the high-flying, wise-cracking superhero Blue Spark.
But being a Junior Hero means that Javier gets all the responsibility and none of the cool gadgets. It’s hard enough working for the Legion of Liberty and fighting against the evil Organization, all while trying to keep on top of schoolwork and suspicious parents. Add in a hunky boyfriend who’s way out of Javier’s league, and an even hunkier villain who keeps appearing every time said boyfriend mysteriously disappears, and Blue Spark is in for one big dollop of teenage angst. All while engaging in some epic superhero action and, oh yeah, an all-out battle to protect Liberty City from the forces of evil.
Welcome to the 100% true and totally unbiased account of life as a teenage superhero.
Review: I’m always looking for new books in the LGBTQ+ YA space, so I was excited when I saw that Riptide Publishing was launching a new YA imprint. J.K. Pendragon’s Junior Hero Blues is one of Triton’s first titles, and if it’s a good representation of the quality we can expect from them, then I’m very optimistic about their future books.
First, a little cover love…I want to give a shout out to Michelle Fairbanks, whose work I haven’t seen before, and who absolutely nailed the cover. I love the color scheme and representation of Liberty City in the background, and just the overall freshness of it. It’s so eye-catching. The cover was the reason I initially wanted to check out the book, and I’m very glad I did.
Second, the title is perfect. Our hero, Javier, truly does have the Junior Hero blues. It’s rough being a high schooler, having to keep a secret identity, constantly coming up with excuses and dodging your parents’ questions, and being at the beck and call of the Legion—all while trying to be a normal teenager. As the blurb tells us, being a Junior Hero means all the responsibility and none of the cool gadgets; and as far as I could tell, that seems like the absolute truth! I loved Javier’s assessment here:
“It’s a complete rip-off being a Junior Hero, by the way. You’re supposed to be only assigned to low risk stuff, but half the time it’s just as dangerous as anything else anyway, and the rest of the time it’s freaking boring.”
Javier—aka Blue Spark—is an awesome kid. I’m not always a huge fan of first person narratives, but I loved Javier’s voice from the beginning. Sure, he’s a superhero, but he’s also a real teenager with homework who’s experiencing first love, and pouting and slamming the door when his parents piss him off. Pendragon’s portrayal of Javier was fantastic. Javier’s crush, Rick, wasn’t quite as likeable, though I realize that was partly by design. However, I did enjoy their little courtship, for the most part.
The story itself revolves around the ongoing fight between the Legion (the good guys) and the Organization (the bad guys), and foiling whatever current trouble the Organization is stirring up. And right in the center of that trouble is Blue Spark’s sworn enemy, Jimmy Black. The alternate universe/sci-fi aspects of the story are so fun. I enjoyed the world building and fun Sky High feel of the action scenes. The battle between Blue Spark and Jimmy Black takes on a different turn as the story goes on, and the author does a good job of keeping things interesting. I also loved how Pendragon handled Javier’s disillusionment with the Legion, and subsequent realization of how he felt about his involvement and them.
“And that was what the Legion was. Not a perfect force for good straight out of a comic book. Just a group of people trying to do the right thing. And that was why I belonged with them.”
Junior Hero Blues also touched on so many elements that are staples in YA books—bullying, acceptance, class differences and diversity—and handled them all wonderfully, with sensitivity and often humor. This book was such a fun, refreshing read. There was great action, a sweet little romance, and enjoyable characters. I would definitely recommend this to YA fans, and will be putting it on the gift list for some of the teenagers in my life!
You can buy Junior Hero Blues here: