I fell in love with Dynama from its very first page, in which our heroine, TJ Gutierrez, a superhero, is interrupted — while removing a bi-pedal shark from her city's downtown district — by a phone call from her daughter's school nurse informing her that “Marisol is sitting in my office with a fever of 102. We'll need you to come pick her up”.
TJ is a superhero who is also a single mom of twins. Her ex-husband turned evil and went to prison many years ago. When he breaks out, TJ has to figure out how to save the world and protect her kids. Luckily, the babysitting service she calls sends Annmarie, the daughter of superheroes, who is unfazed by all this super villain menace. While the overall tone is one of pure, glorious fun (see: bi-pedal shark) this short book has a lot of interesting subtext about a whole host of social issues, not to mention the infrastructure of a world in which superheroes exist.
TJ is great. A Latina bi-sexual single mom superhero? I'm in. She's strong on many levels, not just the physical, she's a good mom but not perfect, she's smart, she has the common sense and courtesy to insist on washing the dishes after Annmarie cooks for her, and she's relatable. Her flaws are understandable and serve to round the character nicely. Rock on, TJ.
I'm on the fence about Annmarie. I've written before about the element of fantasy in romance novels that extends beyond sex and love. In this case, the fantasy represented is of having the perfect babysitter, and, eventually, the perfect 1950's wife. She shows up as soon as TJ calls her and offers to move in for as long as needed. She offers to babysit children who are vomiting and contagious (because she never gets sick), she cooks, she cleans, and yet her rates are affordable (at least for TJ, who seems pretty wealthy). She is endlessly supportive and understanding, she never seems to have any needs of her own, and she's great at sex.
Annmarie decided a long time ago that although she doesn't have “super” powers, she does have one thing she is very good at – bringing order and calm and nurturing to families who need respite, and helping the children of superheroes cope with the secrets that surround them. This is admirable and well thought out, but Annmarie has no flaws and no needs or desires of her own other than to make everyone around her safe and happy, and she needs those elements in order to be a truly believable character and not just the ultimate object of fantasy for any parent who has ever had to find a sitter for a sick kid.
The other things that bugged me were decisions people made that seemed to exist purely for the convenience of the plot. For example: You know your ex is looking for you – why stay in one place? For some obviously intelligent people, TJ and Annmarie, and their support team, did some very stupid things. On top of that, there was a huge hanging thread at the end of the story. Will it be resolved in a sequel, or does the author just consider it resolved by throwing in one or two token sentences about a huge and complex issue?
As soon as I finished Dynama I ran to the author's webpage so I could buy all her other books – but this is the first one she's written. The sigh of sadness that left my lips is the biggest compliment I can bestow. Dynama had its share of first book and novella flaws but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can't wait to watch this writer develop over time.
Luckily Dynama is part of a new series, The Superheroes Union. I waffled on the grade here – once I started thinking analytically, I realized the book has enough problems that it probably merits a C+, but while I was actually reading it I was caught up in the story and would have graded it higher based on pure enjoyment. I fully expect an eventual A for this author and I think geek readers will get a huge kick out of this book even given its flaws.
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