May 14th, 2009

grab ya

Dull Boy by Sarah Cross

So a month or so ago, someone asked me when I was doing my monthly book giveaway. 'Uh,' I said, with my usual quick wit. 'I don't think I... do I do that?'

I looked back, and saw that I do it pretty often. And it struck me as a nice sort of idea, for this year anyway. Aside from in June, when I will clearly be much too insane to use the post office, but I have a plan to make up for that in July.

So to kick off my May giveaway of Dull Boy by Sarah Cross, I have to explain something about superheroes.

I've just never been that into them. Leaving aside the fact that I cannot seem to get into comics because they are largely picture-based and I am a word fiend, superheroes always seemed to be either brave true sweet decent white bread guys, or a huge parcel of issues in their best brooding tights. I like people to have relationships with each other, and well, Batman doesn't seem to be a people person.

The X-Men always seemed promising to me, but never quite gelled, perhaps because there was still too much focus on brooding in costume. Do not ask me to speak of the recent Wolverine. Never have I seen a man pose so much. So many people yell at him 'You're not an animal!' and I spent all my time expecting a photographer to leap out and offer the contrary opinion: 'Yes! Yes, just like that. Rawr. Flex for me some more. You ARE an animal, baby, yeah!'

So let me tell you the story of the only superheroes movie I ever loved. If you have seen Sky High and loved it as I did, there is no more to be said. Sarah Cross's Dull Boy is just like that, and you want it now!

If you have not seen Sky High, I have a tale to tell you.

I am a huge fan of cheesy things. I love Disney musicals and country music. I love Taylor Swift. I love The Secret of Moonacre. Sometimes people think I love these things ironically. This is not the case! I simply love them.

So I was in college, going to the movies with a friend. I was in the mood for cheese, she isn't really keen on adult-rated things, so we chose a movie about a school of superheroes called Sky High. I was just expecting to be mildly amused, but I ended up loving it.

Collapse )

Sky High gave me everything I wanted from a superheroes story: the nice guy hero who is both flawed, humble in a believable way and part of a real team, a heroine who was actually strong and actually had a lot of things on her mind besides the hero, a cast of most excellent and hilarious supporting characters, and naturally a handsome rival turned friend with parental issues and many other issues - more issues than Vogue.

'Now,' I thought to myself, 'If only that was a book.' Because books are my best thing. I often wish other things were books.

When I met Sarah Cross - sarahcross - on debut2009, I heard that her book was about superheroes. I did not think of Sky High. I just thought it was too bad.

I liked Sarah Cross's style from the first. She just had this air of innocence about her, under which facade lay pure evil. That appealed to me. I remember an incident at the Castle, when Jen Barnes and I were wrestling. (I forget why.) Jen kept an eye on Sarah Cross, who was sitting wearing pink in an armchair, looking small and dismayed by this sudden eruption of violence in the castle library. I could see that Jen trusted Savvy to help her if things got out of hand. Then I pinned Jen on the floor. Jen cried out for help.

Sarah Cross tossed her head back and laughed a single, terrible laugh.

It was a very special moment for me.

So acquainted with Sarah Cross's dry wit and secret yet supreme evil, I was looking forward to Dull Boy quite a bit. I knew hers would be a brain I'd like to holiday in. But still... superheroes.

Some of us in the Debs like to get together and play something we call The Game. That's when we go to chat and pick out random numbers, and copy and paste a line from our books from that page. It only makes the waiting more unbearable is a great game! So while we were playing the Game, I noticed that Sarah Cross had copy and pasted a little something about someone called Jacques.

AVERY (the hero of Dull Boy): It takes me all of two seconds to recognize him.

Jacques is the guy with the Jaguar. Casanova with a driver’s license. And . . . superpowers?

I feel about as tense as Darla looks. Sophie’s friend or not, I don’t want him here. I don’t want to see her hug him hello, or laugh at anything he says that I’m sure won’t be funny . . . and I definitely don’t need a demo of his badass force-field-invisibility-bulletproof-better-than-mine powers.

His eyes travel the room until they land on me—and lock.
SAVVY: He also wears jewellery, and has some mommy issues.
SARAH: I LOVE HIM ALREADY. Give me another excerpt with Jacques in it!
CARRIE: Uh, Sarah, those aren't really the rules of the-
SAUNDRA: Shh. We find it best to let her have her way.
AVERY: I’m glad I don’t have super senses; I seriously don’t want to know what they’re saying. Much more satisfying to invent a conversation for them.

Sophie: You should be nicer to Avery. He’s cute and his power is awesome.

Jacques: You’re right. I’m so ashamed. (weeps)

So I admit it, I was originally in it for Handsome Jacques.

But then Dull Boy gave me what I'd forgotten I wanted: nice guy hero Avery, who is losing all his friends because they don't understand why he's suddenly so lame and who is genuinely funny and geeky, and whose super strength means that he has to let himself get beaten up by a school bully. A cast of most excellent and hilarious characters, including Darla who has a RIP Marie Curie T-shirt and whose power is being in charge, and artistic manga-loving Sophie who is planning costumes for everyone. And the heroine (or the girl who I may have just DECIDED is the heroine due to how awesome she is) Catherine, the furious barista who both scorns and terrifies Avery, and yet also goes for the school bully after him with claws of homicidal fury.

Sky High in a book, and yet totally its own thing as well. So, in celebration of one of my youthful dreams being realised and of Dull Boy's release date, I have two copies of Dull Boy - who wants them?

(Actually, I have three. But you can't have mine.)

Edited to Add: So my US authors' copies just arrived in the post. This seems like fate, and I would love to do something nice for Sarah Cross on her release day, so if people would put up on their blogs a picture of themselves and Dull Boy, or Dull Boy in a fun place, and link me, I will put those who do in a hat, and send one of them a signed early copy of The Demon's Lexicon.