I have a confession to make.
I am not a superhero fan.
It’s mostly because I’ve not seen any Marvel or DC movies, not out of any sort of superhero hatred or anything. I suppose I could be a fan, if I put in the time.
All that aside, when I heard about the concept for Taylor Simonds’ COLLATERAL DAMAGE, I was DYING to read. The story of a snarky background extra who is NOT a fan of the superheroes who save–aka destroy–her city? It sounded so meta, so fun, and so unique, and I knew I had to read it.
I’m so glad I did.
The following is my spoiler-free review of my eArc of Taylor Simond’s debut novel, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, which officially comes out June 25, and you should DEFINITELY get a copy. If you’d like to read my interview with the author, you can check that out here: https://catherinebakewell.wordpress.com/2019/04/10/author-interview-taylor-simonds/ Otherwise, continue below to read my review!
I’ll be breaking down my thoughts into different categories and tally up my score at the end!
The characters are the beating heart of the story, and this book is no exception. Every character is charming, fleshed out, and has their own fun sense of humor. I felt very protective of the characters, especially Trashface the rat. I loved how each character responded to the trauma of living in this superhero-run world in a different way. I love that there were very few romantic relationships, but bonds of tight friendship and family that felt powerful and new.
The voice of Meg’s narration was fresh, snarky, and lovable. I loved her sarcasm, her meta humor–that often had me laughing out loud–and the moments when her pain would poke up through her spiny surface of snide comments and jokes. Her narration was fun and easy to follow. Most of all, Simonds should be praised for how she was able to deftly hit the midpoint between sarcasm and empathy. It’s so easy for us to not care about the world if we see our narrator berating the world, calling it lame, pointing out its flaws, but even though Meg cares very little for the superheroes in her world, the depth of the life she’s clawed together in Lunar City and the friendships she’s formed make it so that we still care deeply about her welfare and that of her city.
I found the pacing of the story to be very fast and engaging, while at the same time doing a very good job at stopping to explain worldbuilding, the revealing of information, or having slow, calm moments when appropriate. That said, almost every chapter ended on a note that made me say, “Just ONE more chapter” and then barrel through the next few. The last half of the book especially had me turning pages at light speed, trying to find out how our heroes would survive the next round of trials.
Another hat tip for the fact that I, a writer and a chronic twist-guesser, was genuinely surprised by some of the twists in the narrative. At the same time, they made sense within the logic of the world and felt well-explained. One particular twist had me want to read again to look for clues. Extremely well done!
The justification for the creation of the supers, the explanation for the process of how they came to be, and how they fit into Lunar City as we encounter it at the beginning of the story, is seamless. The narrator is great at explaining new information as if we’re already privy to it, maintaining the voice of the story while also clueing in the audience. The reactions of everyday people to these SuperVariants seems very believable, as does the way the government and law enforcement handles having superheroes to help fight crime. My favorite little twist involves how the superheroes are paid, but I will let you wait to get to that part yourself. Taylor really takes advantage of playing in this sandbox world of “what would life REALLY be like with superheroes”, and it was so fun watching her reveal the way she dealt with various questions, from “What about secret identities?” to “How do you keep a Super’s power in check?”
COLLATERAL DAMAGE is a fun, action-packed read with meta humor that even I, a superhero noob, totally loved. There were moments I read passages out loud to my cousins while on vacation to explain why I was snorting with laughter. I was smiling while reading and definitely felt like I was leaving friends behind when I had to take a break from reading. Taylor has created a vibrant, creative world with airtight lore, and the ending REALLY makes me want to see her explore more of Lunar City in a follow-up story.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE has earned 5/5 stars!