Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she's been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father's too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he's not a hero in any way, or else he's stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.
To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad's "flying lessons" that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city--despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights--thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero.
I don’t know of any other upper YA books that are about superheroes and villains like The Rise of Renegade X is. To be honest, I wish initially wary of this novel. I was concerned that it might be, “Action! Action! Fancy James Bond spy gear! Boyish emotion to which Liz cannot relate! MORE ACTION!” (Yes, I do periodically forget that boys have thoughts and emotions that I can relate to, although typically I wonder what they even think at all.) Campbell pleasantly surprised me with a lovable cast of characters and a well-paced story.
I found the whole premise of this story, a kid whose the child of a super hero and villain, pretty amusing. I was constantly wanting to knowing what happened, but there was plenty of character building, so the action didn’t overwhelm the novel as I had feared. There was also a love story that played a part, and I was quickly drawn in by it.
If you like snark, then Damien Locke is about to become one of your new favorite characters. His narration had me cracking up throughout the entire novel. Yet I also felt a connection with him, because he over thought things and sometimes felt conflicting emotions. I ultimately felt that she used his character to send some great messages about what one inherits versus the choices one makes, but that Damien’s character was realistic enough that I didn’t feel like I was being hit over the head with it. I also have to say that the Crimson Flash kept me chuckling, because at times he was too much of an idealist.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Rise of Renegade X. I thought the ending was a tiny bit rushed, but also incredibly feasible. However, I’d love to see how Damien comes with future obstacles that come his way, so if Campbell decides to provide a sequel, I’ll be eager to pick it up.