Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Friday(-ish) Forward: The Vindico by Wesley King

This week's Friday Forward is another book club pick from last month: Wesley King's YA debut THE VINDICO.

Here's the blurb: The Vindico are a group of supervillains who have been fighting the League of Heroes for as long as anyone can remember. Realizing they’re not as young as they used to be, they devise a plan to kidnap a group of teenagers to take over for them when they retire—after all, how hard can it be to teach a bunch of angsty teens to be evil?

Held captive in a remote mansion, five teens train with their mentors and receive superpowers beyond their wildest dreams. Struggling to uncover the motives of the Vindico, the teens have to trust each other to plot their escape. But they quickly learn that the differences between good and evil are not as black and white as they seem, and they are left wondering whose side they should be fighting on after all . . .

I enjoyed this book on two levels. First, I enjoyed the superhero elements, and I loved the exploration of how different superheroes (and super-villains!) can get their powers. As a former (who am I kidding, current) superhero wannabe, I loved immersing myself in the possibility that a kid could get swept off the streets and given superpowers just like that. And what a premise! Kids kidnapped and trained to be superheroes is one thing - but training them to be super-villains? Now that's a twist I can go for.

Additionally, though, I enjoyed the exploration of what it means to be a hero in the first place. By coincidence, I read this book at the same time that the news about Lance Armstrong's doping scandal came out, and I was glad for the opportunity to think about the artificial granting of extraordinary abilities in a real-life context. While the League of Heroes insists that the only legitimate superpowers are those that a person is born with, and The Vindico insist that all people with superpowers should be welcomed no matter how they got them, the reader is asked to consider whether the fact that one has been born with an innate ability is more or less important than what we do with that ability, and how far one should go in trying to achieve and cultivate that ability. While it doesn't come across as pro-cheating, it does raise some very interesting questions about the nature of good and evil, and what it really means to be "good" or "bad".

I also loved the characterization. all the characters are well-thought-out, with deep histories that have shaped them into the people we meet in this book. I loved that even the worst of the bad guys are relatable and understandable - it lent a depth to this book that all superhero stories should have. And Hayden and Emily? All I can say is, AWESOME.

THE VINDICO is a quick, fun, surprisingly thought-provoking page-turner available in a bookstore near you or online at Indiebound here, Amazon here, and (for readers in Canada) Chapters Indigo here.

Happy Reading!

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