Trying my first V.E. Schwab book, I wasn’t sure what to expect – her books seem to be really big in the community, and yet I didn’t even know which kind of books they were. Would it be funny, sad, jokey or filled with adventure? I should have known better. I mean, I know the book world now mostly goes in favor of dark. And really – the name should have tipped me off, right? It was dark, serious, unforgiving. But it was good. And the most unusual kind of book I’ve ever read, probably. If I had to come up with a short tagline? I’d say it was a “well written and really enjoyable I-don’t-know-what.”
But today, that’s not all I’ll be talking about. I’ve had this review copy of Real Life Super Heroes lying around on my Kindle for a long time (#NetGalley guilt), and when I finished Vicious, I realized it would be the perfect chance to make this post even more interesting. Because both books talk about sort of the same phenomenon – except Nadia Fezzani talks about it in reality!! Before I picked it up, I never even knew real life super heroes existed! But they do. They have communities. And they even have super villains.
But first, let’s start with Vicious! Let me give you a couple of reasons why you should pick it up.
Reasons To Pick Up Vicious by V.E. Schwab
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★★★★☆ 4 stars
If you were able to create a super hero, would you? And if you could make yourself one..? Victor and Eli start out as friends, but when this whole superhero (called ExtraOrdinary in the book) starts off, their friendship is very seriously challenged, and starts changing… I really would not like to give any more details about Vicious, cause I believe it’s best to read it going in without more info! The main points you need to know are that it’s not your usual take on super powers. And it’s going to be dark. Veeeery dark.
It’s Not Black Or White
Vicious is just sooooooo complicated about being a villain or a hero. The thing is, the main character is sort of a bad guy. But he’s also not! And the good guy… Is also really, really damn bad. You get torn between choosing sides, and whether it’s right to choose this one or that one… Whether it’s right to choose a side at all. The characters are all so perfectly, wonderfully complex – I felt it was very realistic and representative of real life. I mean, who’s really all evil or all good? There are just points of view. Some of them might be more tilted towards good or bad, but we all make mistakes. And we all have emotions that skew our choices. Nothing in real life is ever really white or black. Ordinary humans made extraordinary don’t make heroes. Instead, they all make villains. Some less evil, some more. If this was a planet of heroes, there wouldn’t be wars or famines, after all.
POV of a Villain… In Fact, Multiple!
V.E. Schwab is just SOOOOO good with emotions. The emotions that drive us, why we have them, why we do things (think origin stories here.) And I admit that always hearing the story of the hero is getting old! That’s why we adore movies like Megamind and Suicide Squad (alright, maybe we *wanted* to adore Suicide Squad, but it was more of a Suicide Squib. But my point is, we adore the idea behind it.) Seeing the bad guy’s point of view, and seeing that maybe they’re not *THAT* bad after all is interesting, novel, and maybe even a little bit encouraging about the world in general.
Vicious Will Make You Think
The story is all mixed up in time lapses, and up to half of the book you pretty much don’t know what’s going on! (That’s partly why I say it’s best to go in without much info.) But there’s a plan alright. And it makes perfect sense! It also has so many characters you may or may not get attached to – the time lapses bring their backstory in very gradually, but throughout all of the book, your mind will be hard at work trying to figure out what’s really going to happen, why it’s happening and what are the characters’ motivations. More than that, Vicious is such a morally mixed up book, like I mentioned before – it WILL make you think constantly about what’s right and what’s wrong, why, and whether these concepts exist at all.
And now let’s talk about Real Life Super Heroes by Nadia Fezzani…
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★★★★☆ 4 stars
Before reading Real Life Super Heroes, I never even knew this phenomenon existed! I don’t think it exists where I live (a small country in Europe), which is not surprising, cause I think the cultural reasons to this phenomenon lie in how much super hero lore is loved in the West. Regardless of its roots though, it’s an amazing concept.
So basically, what ARE real life super heroes? Some will say they are weirdoes, so will say they seek attention, but no matter what you might think of them, I believe they manage to do some good. Real life super heroes are usually local volunteers, and they either patrol the dangerous streets at night to help resolve conflict or call the authorities, or they also sometimes do homeless outreach, trying to help the people who are in a bad place in their lives at the moment. But the main thing about them that seems to draw attention is that they wear costumes, or at least masks. This book delves into the phenomenon, talks to the super heroes themselves, tries to get to the bottom of why these people do it and what hiding their real identity gives them, as well as considering the community impact it produces.
I should have to mention that it doesn’t just talk about real life super heroes! It has a big part dedicated to real life super villains! Yes, those exist – but unlike in many super hero flicks, these guys are not out there to cause pain and create chaos (well, at least not most of them!) – they’re out there to unmask fake super heroes, point the finger at anyone who is misusing their fame or power, and generally supervise and criticize the community.
And while I would not like to talk in depth about what’s discussed in this book for the same reason as it was with Vicious – you should read about these things without me spoiling them – I will, however, divulge that I didn’t think that nonfiction could have twists. But after finishing this book, literally the last page, I was so stumped I put it down and stared forward for about a minute or two. Wow, Nadia Fezzani – you got me good. Did NOT expect that. AWESOME.
Also, if you want to read more about this, here’s a nice article in Toronto Star about Thanatos, one of the super heroes (who might not even be active anymore) who I have some real respect for.
I thank Tor Books for giving me a free copy of Vicious, and also Dundurn for giving me Real Life Super Heroes in exchange to my honest opinion. Receiving the books for free does not affect my opinion. You can buy Vicious here at Book Depository and buying using this link supports the blog. And you can also buy Real Life Super Heroes here at Book Depository too.
Have you read Vicious? And have you heard anything about real life super heroes at all, and I mean the phenomenon?
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.