Walden Pond Press, $16.99 hardbound, ISBN-10 006213311X, June 24 2014
Michael Morn might be a villain, but he’s really not a bad guy. When you live in New Liberty, known across the country as the City without a Super, there are only two kinds of people, after all: those who turn to crime and those who suffer. Michael and his adoptive father spend their days building boxes-special devices with mysterious abilities that they sell to the mob at a price. They provide for each other, they look out for each other, and they’d never betray each other. In New Liberty, a city torn apart by the divide between the rich and the poor, the moral and the immoral, this is as much of a family as anyone could ever hope for. But then a Super comes to town, a mysterious blue streak in the sky known only as the Comet, and Michael’s world is thrown into disarray. The Comet could destroy everything Michael and his dad have built, the safe and secure life they’ve made for themselves in a city where safety and security are scarce. And now Michael and his father face a choice: to hold tight to their life, or to let it unravel.
I have not read Sidekicked (Minion is a companion, not a sequel), but this story reminded me very much of Sidekicks (Amulet), a superhero/supervillain take by Jack Ferraiolo that I read a few months ago and wish had a sequel. The relationships and humor are fairly similar, so if readers liked Sidekicks (or Sidekicked, for that matter) then they’ll probably love Minion.
A couple of rabid hero comic fans live in my house, and I’m one of them. We’ve often discussed whether superheroes work in novel form without illustrations, and most superhero novels for adults have fallen flat for me. However, Minion is another kid lit capes ‘n tights tale that works really well, largely due to its refusal to take itself too seriously and its focus on character development rather than superpowers. Although it packs in plenty of action scenes, including superhero vs guys with guns, the meat of this story is Michael’s love for the father who adopted him from an orphanage and gave him a normal life. Okay, it’s not normal, per se. He does use his superpower (telepathic hypnotic suggestion) to help his dad knock over a bank or similar every now and then. However, his father, an evil genius if not quite a supervillain, tries hard to give Michael balance: movie night, taco night, a rigorous homeschooling curriculum. He’s something like Gru from the Despicable Me movies, wanting to follow his less-than-moral star but also concerned that his child have as safe and normal a life as possible, when clearly it isn’t possible. Michael appreciates his father’s efforts, but he knows his life is less than normal, and like any kid, he gets frustrated when his father won’t always include him or tell him everything.
Anderson delivers a stylish look at the line between good and evil, where moral codes aren’t always moral and loyalty is everything. Accessible to a wide age group, Minion should be a middle grade/teen hit.
Recommend to: Hero fans, humor/action fans, anyone who liked Sidekicked or Sidekicks or has gotten too old for Mike Jung’s Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities (Arthur A. Levine Books) or Lee Bacon’s Joshua Dread series (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
To buy or not to buy: Yup, definitely.