Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine Worship is the second book in a series about people with superpowers in San Francisco. I previously reviewed the first book, Heroine Complex , ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) which followed the journey of Evie Tanaka, who broke out of the shadow of her overbearing friend, Aveda Jupiter, AKA Annie Chang. If you had told me, back when I reviewed Heroine Complex, that I would end up identifying more with the problems of Aveda/Annie, than with Evie, I would have thought you were delusional. As it turns out, Heroine Worship hit me right in the feels while also being incredibly fun.

Heroine Complex described Evie’s efforts to become her own person after years of being in shadow of Aveda. Aveda and Evie both have powers but Aveda’s manifested earlier. Aveda can teleport any object she can see, and due to a strenuous workout regimen she can also kick ass. Unfortunately, up until the end of Heroine Complex, Aveda was also full of herself, selfish and uncaring, alienating everyone. For years, Evie was Aveda’s put-upon assistant. By the end of Heroine Complex, Evie and Annie are on a more equal footing and have rekindled their friendship.

The sequel, Heroine Worship, is told from Annie/Aveda’s point of view. Evie is always Evie, with or without superpowers. She doesn’t do disguise. In contrast, Aveda is much more comfortable being Aveda, the super powered heroine, than Annie, the insecure girl who can’t please her parents. Aveda rarely refers to herself as Annie, because Annie represents all of Aveda’s vulnerabilities. Aveda wants to show that she is able to be a true friend to Evie, but with years of bad blood between herself and everyone around her, she feels useless and unwanted.

Things look up for Aveda once Evie announces that she’s getting married and wants Aveda to be her maid of honor. Aveda is thrilled to have a chance to prove that she’s really changed. She’s not hogging the limelight anymore! She will selflessly give Evie the wedding Evie deserves, whether Evie wants it or not! The fact that she and Evie are continually under attack from crazed, possibly possessed, brides is but a tiny distraction from creating a perfect wedding in the space of one month.

If you haven’t read Heroine Complex, you won’t have trouble getting into Heroine Worship, but I still recommend starting with the first book because it will make some of the character development in Heroine Worship more moving and because it features demon-possessed cupcakes. You won’t want to miss those. Heroine Worship builds directly on the character and relationship resolutions of the previous book and explores the new dynamic between Evie and Aveda while also giving Aveda a romance of her own.

Heroine Worship has a supernatural villain that Aveda and Evie and their wonderful group of friends have to defeat, but the central conflict of the book is whether Aveda can really treat Evie as an equal and whether Aveda can feel accepted by her group. Aveda and Evie became friends as children when Aveda protected Evie from bullies. As an adult, Aveda became a bully herself, treating Evie like a doormat. Now that she’s changing her ways as a result of the events of Heroine Complex, Aveda swings back to their original dynamic in which she wants to protect Evie and give Evie what Aveda thinks is best for her. This is still not a relationship on an equal footing and Aveda spends the book struggling to learn a middle ground, which she can only do by accepting that she is both Aveda and Annie Chang.

Meanwhile, Aveda has a support team, which is basically Evie’s found family. It should be Aveda’s too, but she’s spent so much time rejecting any kind of emotional intimacy that now she’s an outsider. To make matters worse, Aveda believes that her parents are embarrassed by her but utterly charmed by Evie. Aveda pushes herself to be perfect in her quest to win approval and acceptance from both her blood family and her chosen family. Watching her feel like an outsider is incredibly painful. The events that surround the characters are crazy and entertaining and funny, but the feelings are intensely real.

The book tackles possessed wedding dresses, racism, and misogyny with equal glee. It’s a book with a lot of action and also a book in which people talk about their feelings a lot (I happen to love it when people talk about their feelings). It includes fashion, a lot of food, sex, and references to Hong Kong Action Movies and the tricky balance between Clark Kent and Superman.

The only flaw in Heroine Worship is that there is a sidebar romance between Aveda and a fellow named Scott (he was Aveda and Evie’s friend in childhood). The romance is so perfunctory that it doesn’t need to be in the book at all. It’s a distraction from the central relationship, which is between Aveda and Evie. Scott seems like a great guy, but he isn’t given much character development. He’s basically there to help Aveda learn to value her Annie self while having orgasms. In a book with such a powerful relationship dynamic between two friends, the perfunctory nature of the relationship between Scott and Aveda stands out.

This is a great series for fans of comic book superheroes, martial arts movies, feminism, and relationships between women. It features two Asian American heroines and a diverse group of supporting characters. Above all, the books are celebratory and fun and zany. I fervently hope there’s a third book.

This book is available from:
Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn

July 4, 2017

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