Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest secret comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right…or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
Heroine Complex centers two Asian-American characters who are superheroes – Annie who is Aveda Jupiter and San Francisco’s friendly neighbourhood superhero, and her best friend/personal assistant Evelyn aka Evie. Though the story is told from Evie’s perspective as a woman who learns to come into her own power, it is also a story about friendship and how much give and take should be in a relationship. All this set in an urban fantasy landscape where demons from another dimension have given powers to a few San Francisco residents.
Evie has been a personal assistant to Annie for some years now, and despite how much the latter bosses her around, she feels like she owes it to her. They have a close friendship as they are childhood friends but the cracks also show. The book delves into it and shows how being friends for a long time doesn’t excuse any terrible behaviour, no matter how much history you have with that person. Evie’s own personal growth also comes about when she stops being afraid of her own power; her new love teaches her to accept her abilities and learn to control it rather than wishing it away.
On Annie’s side, though we don’t get her POV, we see how she has been struggling to be the perfect superhero for her city. She is not only a target for sexism, and constantly having to look perfect for her adoring fans, she also had to be the perfect daughter to her parents. So when she is injured and has Evie take over her role, she starts getting jealous of how good Evie is at being a superhero. She is flawed, and that makes her interesting. She eventually comes to accept how her behaviour towards her friend was wrong, but yeesh, it was terrible until then.
The book also touches upon racism, and how it has affected our two heroines. Evie and Annie became friends together firstly because their classmates bullied them for being different. Their conviction about being heroes also came about from seeing an Asian superhero movie when they were young, speaking for the importance of having young girls someone they can look up to, in a way they can relate to. It deals with serious issues in a humorous manner, and doesn’t come across as heavy. Some situations are downright ridiculous, and I was not so convinced with the villain reveal at the end, but on the whole, the book is entertaining.
Content warning: As the book contains sex scenes, this is not recommended for younger teens. Reader discretion advised.