Book Review: Cute Mutants Volume 1 by S. J. Whitby
Disclaimer: I've never been a huge fan of superhero stories. Sure, they're fun, and it's always entertaining to see some flashy action scenes in a movie on the big screen. But unless there's something wildly different and compelling about a superhero story, I just don't care all that much.
Enter the Cute Mutants - a group of ordinary teenagers who suddenly develop superpowers after kissing a girl at a party. And oh my gosh, these kids. These kids have latched onto my soul and carved out a space all their own in my heart. I love them all so much. The star of the show is definitely our woefully socially-oblivious protagonist Dylan, whose first-person narration really set this story apart for me. You want to talk about a POV character with a strong voice, look no further. This character has the strongest, most personal voice, and it carries throughout the story in a way that makes it feel honest and humorous and full of heart. I saw so many of my own teenage fears about fitting in reflected in Dylan's character and I just loved her so, so much. The secondary characters all felt very well-developed and believable as well. Cinnamon-roll Alyse, emotional support himbo Bianca, insecure but endearing Lou, ice-queen Dani, whip-smart Emma - every single one of the Cute Mutants is a valuable piece of the story and the team, and I very much look forward to getting to know them better as the series continues.
The plot was fairly predicable superhero fare in a lot of ways, but I think what set this apart for me was the fact that we got to see the characters make some very real, human, teenager mistakes as they're stumbling their way through this adjustment to their new powers. And then those mistakes have consequences (gasp!) that are all explored in a very realistic and emotionally impactful way. No one here is a totally cool and competent hero right from the start, and I loved seeing that. Everyone's superhero abilities were really interesting as well. They're awesome abilities, but they each come with some pretty significant trade-offs that raised the stakes of the story and added to the conflict. There's a nice little reveal in the epilogue that sets us up for Volume 2 nicely, and I'm hoping we'll get to dive into everyone's powers a little more and understand how they got them and why.
Also, can we talk about this cover for a minute? How amazing is that artwork? This was another one of those books that I picked up 95% based on the cover. Sometimes that works out for me and sometimes it doesn't, but in this case, the story inside is just as gorgeous as the cover. The covers for the rest of the already-published books in the series are fantastic as well and I'm super excited to read them. One minor thing I did notice when I was reading the eBook (Kindle) was that some of the text message exchanges in the book were blocked out for me with ??? symbols. I'm assuming there were maybe emojis there or something that didn't translate to the eBook version of the story, and it was mildly annoying to miss out on some of that context. But not a big deal overall, and I still enjoyed the story very much.
If you like superheroes or if you just want to read about a bunch of queer kids blundering their way through using their new powers to stick up for what's right, this is definitely the book for you. I loved it and I will definitely be continuing with the series.