I picked this up mainly for the cover. It is bright and makes me think the story inside is going to be exciting. And it is!
Our story follows Josie O’Malley, an Irish-American (I think she’s an immigrant, but she might be first-generation.) She spends her time working at a diner to help out with the household expenses, which is a big help since her father is fighting in WWII. She is also trying to control her temper while trying to fight the injustices she sees in her immediate surroundings, especially around the local bully. (The bully seems unusually cruel to me, but maybe I’m not used to that kind of useless scum.) She wonders where the superheroes have gone, like her favorite Zenobia. The superheroes all disappeared a few years past, and no one seems to know why.
Josie is skipping school to take a very important test. She’s a puzzler, a good one, and wants to help the war effort in any way she can. But she’s disappointed to see the examiner throw out the tests of all of the girls without even looking at them! She meets two other girls who are just as clever and just as angry. Akiko is a Japanese-American with bad allergies whose family is in internment camps because of the war, and Mae is a black girl with impeccable manners from Chicago. Both girls are used to fighting discrimination not only for their sex, but for their appearance and heritage as well. Josie doesn’t have as much hate thrown at her directly, but she’s used to seeing it toward the Germans who own the diner where she works.
While the girls quickly bond over the unfairness directed at them, they quickly bond over something else. They stumble upon an act of awful villany against a real superhero, and to their surprise take on the mantle of superheroes themselves! It takes them a long time to figure out their new roles, but they learn fast enough to get the job done. It also takes them a while to figure out how to work as a team, both in costume and in their day-to-day lives.
They may be the ones with superpowers, but they are not the only heroes by far. We meet six women (well, a building full of women, but six special ones) who are using math to help the war effort. These six women actually existed, and they were the human computers and early programmers called the “ENIAC Six” for the computer they were building. At the end of the book, the author talks about the history of the women and the interviews she had with their families. In the words of many people in the comment sections of clickbait articles, “Not all heroes wear capes!”
One of the many things I like about this story is the mixture of graphic novel and regular novel. We have chapters in the graphic novel style (which were in black and white, but it would be really awesome if they are in color in the published version) and we have chapters in prose. It makes sense – this is a story about superheroes, and superheroes emerged from comics. The girls in the story read comics about their favorite heroes, and I wonder if in the next books they’ll be featured in comic books themselves! The next books in the series, Boots and Mask (I think) will hopefully focus on Akiko and Mae. It’ll be a long wait, but it will be worth it!
I was given a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This title will be released on August 6, 2019.
This fulfills the CBR 11 Bingo category of “And So It Begins”