Bethany’s latest book-diving exploit takes her and her friends into a superhero comic, a realm where, of course, the good guys always win—or do they?
Following the electrifying discovery that her long-missing fictional dad is the superhero Doc Twilight, the white girl trails him from “this” world to Jupiter City, a burg of costumed heroes and villains that has been rebooted by its writer into an authoritarian dystopia under the thumb of a vengeful scenery-chewer known only as the Dark. Along with weaving “fiction,” “nonfiction,” and metafiction in brain-bending ways, Riley continues to have great fun with his premise—stocking Jupiter City with villains like Dr. Apathy and a fruit-themed gang led by Rotten Banana; slipping in pop-culture references from Squirrel Girl to “I’ve got a bad feeling about all of this”; and among other revelations describing how his string-pulling alter ego “Nobody” used a certain unnamed classic about a boy and a tree to subvert one of pop fiction’s most fundamental tropes. He also has Bethany sacrifice herself (seemingly) and strands her best bud Owen in a choose-your-own-plot novel with a disingenuous invitation to readers to leave him there. Bethany’s other allies, the comically misnamed Charm and dark-skinned, relentlessly upbeat Gwen, supply further banter, chemistry, and diversity to this tangled episode.
A literary hall of mirrors, with plenty of thrills and laughs to keep “nonfictionals” in the game. (Metafictional fantasy. 11-13)