Cruel Summer

Nameless HeroAfter surviving an attack from the school librarian on the last day of sixth grade (she was a grumpy half shark, half human hybrid), Joshua Dread was finally looking forward to a little peace and quite during summer vacation. “Two and a half months of doing nothing,” he says with relief.

Instead of spending the summer sleeping until noon and watching Cartoon Network all day, Joshua and his pals are recruited to attend a mysterious summer camp for “gyfted” children. The camp’s stated charter: to groom the next generation of superheroes.

But Joshua is a tad confused. He’s got superpowers (he’s cursed with the power of spontaneous combustion), but he’s not a superhero. In fact, his parents are two of the most dangerous supervillains in the entire world. “Don’t they know that my mom keeps zombies locked in the basement?” he wonders. “Or that my dad tried to blow up the moon—twice?”

Surprisingly, his parents are happy about the invitation (“You’ll have plenty of time to realize what a great supervillain you’ll grow up to be,” says his mom). And so Joshua half-heartedly packs his bags for superhero camp. Joining him are Sophie, the daughter of Captain Justice, Milton, his best friend, nFinity, a teenage superhero heartthrob, and Miranda, a girl with super intuitive powers. In short order they adopt cool superhero names, don bright and embarrassingly tight superhero costumes, and become the Alliance of the Impossible.

The whole premise is ridiculous and everybody knows it. Joshua isn’t a superhero. He’s a nerd who looks like he’s just been stumped by a tough math question. His best friend Milton doesn’t have any superpowers whatsoever. Sophie’s costume makes her look like a giant banana. And a pesky supervillain is busy defacing national monuments with Jello, spray paint, and buckets of KFC. Our favorite character, Captain Justice, is absent during most of the novel, but he shows up at the end for some LOL grandstanding moments. Joshua was hoping for a nice and quiet summer vacation. Instead, he found himself trapped inside a random issue of Not Brand Echh.

Before the summer ends, Joshua and his pals weather a never-ending string of crazy situations, including death-defying rescues, backstabbing double-crossers, the persnickety Smick sisters, and the return of Phineas Vex, the villain from the first Joshua Dread novel. Despite the peril, the author is able to include a joke on every page. He even includes a warm and fuzzy moment at the end of the book. “We survived summer vacation,” says Joshua in conclusion. “We weren’t superheroes any longer, but at least we were still friends.”

[Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero / By Lee Bacon / First Printing: September 2013 / ISBN: 9780375987229]

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