children, Claire Lutra, comics, fantasy, middle grade, paranormal, Penny Akk, Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, Ray Viles, Richard Roberts, Science Fiction, superheroes, urban, young adult
Has any of you ever watched Sky High? It’s a super cool – and very underrated – movie about a kid whose parents are superheroes and he wants to be like them, but seems to be normal despite going to a high school designated to educate the future heroes and sidekicks. Well, the concept of Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain is pretty familiar in some plot points with that.
Penelope “Penny” Akk has it rough. Her parents are the retired heroes Audit and Brainy Akk, two super geniuses, and the middle school girl cannot wait to get her own powers. Everyone keeps telling her to wait, but what do they know? She’s so close to unlocking them, she can just feel it! So when her powers do come in a rather abrupt manner, she knows it will be better to keep it a secret and surprise her family later, when she has full control of them. But things never go as planned. A science fair goes wrong, and then her best friend slash crush, Ray Viles, goes picking a fight with Miss A, Original’s sidekick. What’s a girl to do? What else? She stands by his side and fights, too, and with the help of their friend, Claire Lutra, they win. Too bad they can’t celebrate their victory. Now word is out that they’re the new black in supervillainy – and heroes and sidekicks won’t stop chasing them until they’re down! Can Penny stop this madness that her secrets and rash decisions have caused and convince the public she’s actually one of the good guys, before her parents find out? And what if, despite denying it, she’s actually good at being bad?
As Penny herself would say… Criminy! Who would have thought that I would end up cheering for supervillains? And middle school ones at that! But it’s true. The Inscrutable Machine was one team I wouldn’t mind to keep as the bad guys!
Penny and her friends were the most refreshing trio I have read – ever since the all-too-famous Golden Trio, that is. They had their ups and downs, and the usual “problems” a middle schooler faces in life, but they tried to see the bright side, and always had a plan to get out of each mess they created – even if their plan rarely worked. They were, first and foremost, a TEAM. Sure, they came at odds with each other, and not all of their feelings were pure. Claire was too self-absorbed and shallow, Ray was a bit too much of a materialist and tended to forget he was the one who got the girls in the heroes’ wanted list, and Penny would sometimes forget of anything else other than her own powers and would get unreasonably jealous of Ray mooning over Claire. Oh, yes, I almost forgot about the love trianle. Yeah, there was one, too.
BUT! (And it’s a big but, mind you)
Here’s the thing. You just can’t stay mad at them. Or find it in your heart to dislike the romantic confusion among them. Why? Because Richard Roberts is apparently a genius in what he’s doing! Early in the story, Penny informs the reader about the situation:
Love triangles suck.
When I read that line, I freaked out. I hate love triangles. I avoid them as much as possible. But it turns out that Penny’s admission of the problem did the trick, as it served to give a light and humoristic atmosphere. Sure, she was jealous of Claire because of Ray’s attraction to her, but she never let that get in the way of their teamwork. She sulked a bit, but that was it. Claire was a shallow and sometimes naive girl, but she would cut her own arm off for her friends – and proved to be more mature and observative in rare occasions. As for Ray, while we never really found out what was his family situation was, it looked like he had missed out on lots of material goods, so it was somewhat natural for him to get dazzled by the sparkles that came with super powers and the cookies that the dark side had to offer.
Now, don’t go thinking it was just the characters that kept the story interesting. Not at all! Mr. Roberts has a way with words that makes you unwind and enjoy yourself, as you witness the adventures of this unlikeable trio. Their powers were a delight to read into full development. Their comments and the dialogues through the book were funny and sarcastic, and it was often hard to remember that, hellooo, these are NOT adults we’re dealing with, but little kids! The only times when their age showed was when they “fangirled” or when they screwed up – and since this writer has obviously done his homework, this happened a lot, and with all the times having a specific gap between them so that it would not get boring AND add to the suspense and the character growth.
With a plot that is so familiar and yet so new, three main characters that crack you up and make you want to cuddle with them, villains and heroes that never stay on their respectful sides but venture in gray areas whenever it suits them, and lots of fancy, intriguing gadgets, it’s no wonder why I recommend this book wholeheartedly. The Inscrutable Machine are sure to guarantee you the best of times!
***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***