The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
Release Date: May 2010
Publisher: Egmont USA
Damien’s 16th birthday was supposed to be a happy occasion. It should have been the day that he finally got his V and head onto Vilmore to become the supervillain. But imagine his surprise when instead of the V an X appears on his thumb, an undeniable sign that his villain mother had hooked up with a superhero. And if that weren’t bad enough, when he learns which superhero is his father, Damien is forced to go live with him and his superhero family. Given six weeks to prove to his father that there’s not an ounce of superhero in him, Damien will do anything to get back to the life he knew. But along the way he may just find that each decision leads him down a road he could have never expected. Will Damien find himself slipping into the superhero lifestyle? Or will he be able to prove once and for all that he is all villain and turn that X into a V?
The Short of It: Adored it. I’ve been wanting to read this book since I first saw the cover/heard the description last year and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to do so. I can’t say enough good things about this one. And can I mention that Campbell throws in some of the best lines ever? I’ve been going around quoting my favorite one-liners since finishing (and probably will be for some time!)
Plot: I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like The Rise of Renegade X. I mean, sure, we’ve all sort of grown up on superhero comics/cartoons/movies, but this one is a little different. I felt like Campbell managed to pull a true sense to humanity to these larger than life characters, especially the supervillains. I enjoyed Damien’s struggle between becoming the villain he feels he was meant to be and doing what he believed was right. Of course, doing what he believed was right was not always about doing good or being a hero. It was about what his convictions led him to and proved how many shades of gray there really is in this world. But I also liked the message that one incident doesn’t define who you are. Just because you save the world doesn’t mean you’ll be a hero. Yes, it may put you one step (ok LEAP) closer, but there will be many more forks in the road and choices down the line that can change or redeem you.
Okay, I just realized I made this plot sound a lot more serious than it truly is. Yes, all this issue is touched upon a lot as Damien is struggling with his future, but there is TONS of fun and laughter mixed in. In fact, I’m betting you’ll notice the quirky girl, the dancing flower, and funny quips more than you will the other stuff. Okay, that may be a slight overstatement, but Campbell really does do an excellent job with mixing it all together.
Characters: Ah, Damien. There are moments where I wanted to shake the boy senseless, but most of the time I just wanted to give him a hug. I mean, one very small letter on his thumb literally changed his life upside down. Had it only gone the way it was supposed to and he would be on his way to becoming a supervillain at Vilmore. Instead, he got ripped from everything he knew and thrown into a new goody-good family. Yet, perhaps that was the best thing that happened to him, especially when you see how his home life really was. His mom wouldn’t exactly be winning any mother-of-the-year awards. Every time he went home I just wanted to give him cookies with milk and tell him it’d be ok.
On the other hand, Damien proves often enough that he doesn’t need that. He may be feeling lonely and unwanted, but he still knows who he is. He’s not afraid to risk his life for those he loves…and sometimes those he may not even know. Sure, maybe he won’t be the big, awful supervillain but I’m not sure he was ever meant to be. He always had this line that he couldn’t cross and no amount of training would have changed that. I was glad to see that sense of his right and wrong didn’t change through all he had to go through. He may have learned it wasn’t his mother’s or father’s right or wrongs, but they were his and that was enough.
Romance: Honestly, this is the hardest part for me to write about. There was romance, but there wasn’t. Does that make sense? What he has with Sarah isn’t really a relationship, even if they do produce some of the best lines. I think they both felt something for each other, but it never would have truly made it. She saw him as something he wasn’t. However, when it comes to Kat, well, that is where Damien’s heart belonged. And oddly enough, though she wasn’t in the a lot of the book, I found myself routing for a hot make-out session leading to undying love between them. Do I know why? No clue, but there’s was something about them that I loved almost instantaneously, even if she did kind of screw things up before. Maybe it was just how well she truly seemed to know him and was willing to admit the horrible mistake she made. Or maybe I’m just a sap for second chances. Either way kudos to Campbell for making me love unsafe, kind of in the background romance.
Writing: I really enjoyed Campbell’s style. I know I’ve mentioned the quotable one-liners, but it deserves yet another mention. Of course, I’m an odd girl and some of the ones I found funny others may not. As a D&D girl, there was a tabletop game reference that had me rolling. Beyond that, Campbell knows how to spin a good story. There were a couple of spots that the pacing felt a tad bit off, but it’s hardly worth mentioning. I can’t wait to see Campbell’s future work. I have a feeling she’ll just get better and better.
Librarian-Mode: So, this is definitely one I’ll be recommending to my teens this summer. In fact, it’s already on my recommended book list for High Schoolers that will be viewed by all my summer reading participants. However, I’m kind of stumped on what to pair it with. I’ve been pondering a couple different pairings like John Green or the Looking Glass Wars but I’m not quite sure they’re quite right. I can’t even think of any other superhero books beyond Hero by Perry Moore. And while they have some similar themes, I’m really don’t think they would work together. If you all have any good read-a-like suggestions I would love to hear them.
So, now it’s your turn…have you read The Rise of Renegade X? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.