In Brown’s YA adventure, an accident turns an 18-year-old female member of a city’s elite team of protectors into a superhero.
Delilah Greyson is just one of five trainees remaining in the competition to join the Defenders. There’s only one open spot on the team, which protects the citizens of Charlotte. All of Delilah’s training pays off, and she becomes the newest member. Unfortunately, team leader Jake blames her for their failure to capture the Amphibian—a giant monster terrorizing Charlotte—and benches her for subsequent missions. While on probation, Delilah searches for an unfinished invention (courtesy of the team’s second-in-command and resident nerd, David), seemingly for revenge against Jake, who locked away the unstable machine in his office. Inadvertently turning on the machine, she survives an ensuing explosion and wakes up sporting feathers and birdlike powers (e.g., flight). Delilah, in disguise, takes on the city’s criminals, which may include Elemental, a masked female with fire-and-ice powers. Elemental’s objectives, however, are ambiguous: cops have tried to stop her from freezing a river, but she’s also saved people from the Amphibian. Delilah, working with the Defenders as the White Dove (and still largely unidentified), will have to identify the real villain(s). Brown’s tongue-in-cheek novel acknowledges its absurdity while instilling chic comic-book components. Delilah, for example, initially describes herself as “a giant bird lady” but, in confrontations with baddies, coolly pulls feathers out of her wrist to use as weapons. The theme of good vs. bad—and the shades in between—is strong throughout and leads to a twist or two involving a few characters. The plot, however, occasionally baffles; at least one character, for example, knows Elemental’s true identity and has no discernible reason for keeping that info from Delilah. Regardless, superpowers are smartly incorporated. Elemental’s hair and outfit colors depend on which power she’s using, while Delilah’s flight is freedom from her Defenders probation. At the same time, the powers aren’t superficial; fire and ice correlate with Elemental’s apparent bipolar personality.
A swift, unwavering pace complements sublimely complex characters.