Heroine Complex (Book 1)
By Sarah Kuhn
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest secret comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right…or see her city fall to a full on demonic invasion.
This was a fantastic read from start to finish. It reminded me a lot of Summer Heacock’s The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky in humor, swearing, and spunky protagonists. All the characters in Heroine Complex are nuanced and well rounded, even the characters that only pop in from time to time. Evie and her best friend Aveda are wonderful foils for each other. There are moments early in the book where it feels like Evie is set up to be “different from other girls” but—in a nice change of pace—the arc ends by showing there are different types of strength and we all have our own style.
Sarah Kuhn does a fantastic job handling multiple character arcs and subplots like Evie’s and Aveda’s rocky friendship, Evie doing her best to take care of her wild-child sister, and Evie figuring out how romance works after a three year hiatus.
The story is interspersed with snippets from San Francisco’s demon tour website and reviews as well as Maisy’s—our Mean Girl antagonist—blog. These short intermissions give the world more depth and reflect the world that we live in that’s rife with gossip blogs and good/bad reviews about everything from nail salons to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The blog entries also help bridge time jumps in the story without the story feeling rushed and characters interact with the information in the blog posts so they aren’t happening in a vacuum. It’s a really great piece of storytelling and skill to weave the story around these outside POV pieces.
Another great thing about this book that might get lost in the shuffle of everything else happening: Both Evie and Aveda are Asian-Americans and they interact with the world as such. There are a lot of stories out there with characters that are Asian or Black or Latinx but they still interact with the world in the same way a white character does and that doesn’t make sense. Evie talks about how she and Aveda were teased when they were younger about their features and about the food they brought to school. She also observes that the food that made them targets for bullying is now trendy. It’s a subtle thing, but it adds so much verisimilitude to the characters and the world they live in.
Evie and Aveda have been friends since elementary school, but right now as Aveda becomes more and more of a diva, the relationship is starting to fray. When the story opens up, they’re not really best friends anymore, it’s a boss-assistant relationship first with friendship coming up a distant second. As the story progresses and Evie starts to come out of her shell as she masquerades as Aveda Jupiter there’s a great tension build up. The release of that tension is even more subtle than its buildup and it makes for a very real conversation between friends.
A lot of the high drama points in Heroine Complex are short conversations between characters and not all action-y explosions and shows of force. There are plenty of cool action sequences, but what makes this book great aren’t the superpowers but the relationship dynamics. Like Evie and her seventeen year old sister, Bea. As someone who has a wild-child for a younger sister, I weathered the storm with Evie as she tries to connect and help Bea grow. I can remember plenty of frustrated conversations and fights with my sister. I just wanted to reach through the pages and tell Evie that things will get better; they don’t stay—as wild—forever.
I know it says on the back cover that there’s unexpected romance, but I totally forgot about that when I started reading. So the romance really was totally unexpected. As with The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky, I didn’t’ find the romance in Heroine Complex to have the same tedium that I feel in other stories. Most of the time when I’m reading I accept that romance is part of the story and gloss over it to get to back to the primary storyline. But in this, I was interested in Evie’s relationship and wanted to see how it evolved and how the arc would end.
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn really has it all: romance, action, cool superpowers, and demons in San Francisco. It’s a story that really needs two or three reads to appreciate how well Sarah Kuhn weaves in subplots, drama, and red herrings. I would recommend this as a Sunday afternoon read so that Monday you’re ready to go out and save the world.
You can find Heroine Complex at:
And you can learn more about the author, Sarah Kuhn, at her website: http://www.heroinecomplex.com/
And after you finish book one, pick up book two! Heroine Worship