rating: n/a, DNF’d
rep: sapphic mc, sapphic li
Super Adjacent by Crystal Cestari was a book I thought I would love. It’s about two women, one in her junior year of college and the other in her junior year of high school, who are connected to superheroes. Bridgette, the college junior, is coming to the realization that she needs to break up with her boyfriend of four years, Matt AKA Vaporizer, one of the most popular superheroes. Claire, on the other hand, just got an internship at the superhero organization and is drawn to Joy, one of the newest heroes.
The cover is absolutely adorable, and it is so beautifully purple. The book is sapphic and focuses on a sapphic superhero. I’ll admit that it made me think of a fanfic when I read the synopsis. It was a book I was set up to love from the start
Plot twist: I was annoyed by the first page and would put down the book at around the 60% mark.
Like I said, my issues with the book started early. The book has two POVs, one for each of our heroines-adjacent. And, please stop me if you have heard this complaint leveled as dual-POV books before, I preferred one point of view much more than I liked the other. It started with the point of view I didn’t like, Claire’s to be exact. Claire is obsessed with superheroes. She is on all of the superhero forums and even keeps a notebook with facts about them that she has maintained for the past seven years. To put it simply, she is a fangirl.
I have never liked a book centered around fandom, at least not those that focus on the fans themself. It’s not like these topics are foregin to me. I was heavily involved in fandom for six years from the time I was 11 to the time I was 17. Even as I have distanced myself from fandom at large, I still read and write fanfic. So I’m not someone out of touch with this aspect of many teens’ lives. It’s just something I find incredibly annoying and a bit harmful. I could write essays (and have, actually) about how fandom is more harmful than it is helpful. And reading books, in this case points of view, that celebrate it unconditionally irks me.
I put the book down so maybe she grows past this but Claire’s entire life is centered around superheroes. She risks her life and her future to work for them. And I just did not care. It was frustrating and annoying and I felt 20 years older than I am when I was reading her point of view. And I was so so bored. But I still wanted to like this book. I wanted to give it a shot so I kept reading. I thought, maybe, the romance would be enough to pull me in and keep me interested.
It wasn’t. The romance involved instalove which I actually tend to enjoy quite a bit. However, I still like to build up to the romance, preferably a slow and pining-filled build at that. That wasn’t what I got. It was a fast build and once more, I was just bored. There was no tension for me to pull me in, there was no lovestruck opining, and while there were a few moments that made me giggle, it just was not enough for me.
Now, had this book simply been Claire and Joy’s story, I would have put it down then. But, like I mentioned above, there was another point of view featured, Bridgette’s. I adored Bridgette’s chapters. Her story, her learning to put herself first and working up the courage to end a relationship that was full of love but was still unhealthy for her, was what kept me reading for two hundred pages.
While at times it felt like Claire was barely developed beyond who she was obsessed with, Bridgette was a fully fleshed out character and Matt, her boyfriend, was just as interesting. I was reading the book for them. I was rooting for them to break up, and then I was rooting for them to grow and learn and get back together. Their love for eachother was clear. It was incredibly well done. I even skimmed Bridgette’s chapters to see what happened with them after I decided to put the book down.
Bridgette’s chapters also focused in part on the harassment Matt’s fans sent her way and the ways that her life was disrupted by fandom and her super-adjacent status. It was fascinating and made valid (and much needed) criticism.
But Claire’s chapters undercut the message and the fact that the narrative jumped from people calling Bridgette names and slandering her because of who she was dating to Claire’s uncritical adoration of fandom felt… weird. It was a cognitive dissonance that threw me off.
More page time was spent with Claire which simply just irked me. I wanted to read more about Bridgette than Claire, but given Claire was the focus, it left me unsatisfied and almost made me just skip Claire’s chapters altogether.
Another thing I liked about the book was the fact that it actively challenged the sexism that is present in superhero media. There is a scene where the sexualization of heroines is criticized. It was a nice edition and did make me a little more interested in Claire’s chapters. It also, with Bridgette’s chapters, took the time to criticize the ways that fandom and the media demonize famous women and women who are adjacent to fame.
However, after seeing another woman in the book reduced to the vapid mean girl stereotype. It just left the book feeling more than a little hollow to me and was the final straw in me finally deciding to put it down.
Onto some pet peeves that don’t really matter:
- There is textspeak, like OMG and LOL, in the actual narration
- The cover isn’t accurate. Joy’s costume on the cover isn’t what is described in the book. Bridgette’s hair is shorter than it is on the cover. Claire’s hair is a completely different color.
All in all, I don’t think this is a bad book. I think it is a book that a lot of people are going to love. But it’s a book that dragged for me and left bored, annoyed, and a little frustrated. I hope this book finds it’s audience.