Being a graphic-novel story told in a young-adult prose, The Girl Who Would Be King is a difficult book to categorize. Considering it's also a frustratingly bad story told through a wonderfully entertaining narrative, it turns out the book is difficult to review as well!
Two girls receive superpowers after the deaths of their mothers. Haunted by the tragic car accident that took her mother's life, Bonnie Braverman vows to use her powers to help people. In contrast, Lola LaFlame proactively obtained her powers by murdering her own mother. As you might have guessed, there's a bit of a philosophical difference between the two girls!
My understanding is that author Kelly Thompson self-published this book through Kickstarter.com after she was unable to find a publisher willing to back it. Unfortunately, the lack of a professional editor is obvious throughout the book. I really didn’t mind the multiple misspellings and grammatical errors. However, one thing that did distract me was the large amount of discrepancies on display here. While some authors have been known to contradict themselves later in a book, Thompson sometimes manages to do it on the same page. For instance, in one scene, Bonnie describes watching a co-worker walk enter a room and lie down on the floor. Moments later, when the co-worker gets up, Bonnie is startled to see how short the co-worker is, as this is the first time she ever saw her standing up…uhhh, did she crawl
into the room when you watched her before, Bonnie?!? In another scene, Bonnie battles a group of thugs that number either 5 or 6, depending on which sentence you chose to believe.
In all fairness, misspellings and discrepancies wouldn’t be that big a deal so long as the story itself was compelling enough…which brings us to the much larger problem! The book is split up into narratives for both Bonnie and Lola. To Thompson’s credit, she tries to give both girls enough subplots to keep thing interesting. Unfortunately, Thompson tries to juggle too many things at once, leaving us with a very disjointed sequence of events that aren’t given enough time to play out in an effective way. Warning, mild spoilers ahead…nothing too major, but I’m using the spoiler tag just in case you don’t want to know any specific plot points before reading.
Bonnie saves a young man’s life, and then instantly falls in love with him. Why? She just does! Often times information is revealed through casual offhanded remarks which suggest that the author meant to tell us these things before but then forgot! And then there are moments that just make no sense at all. In one scene, Lola reveals to a woman she just met that she killed her mother (why does Lola confess this to a complete stranger, you ask…she just does)! Does the woman inform the police or at least seem a bit nervous? Why, no, she just casually sets up an appointment for her & Lola to talk some more! The snarky side of me would love to describe all the parts of this story that don’t make sense, but I’m pretty sure GoodReads reviews have a 1,000,000 character limit!
So, up until now, it sounds like I should have only given this book two or even one star. However, despite its flaws (and there are many), I still managed to have a lot of fun reading this book! Lola’s segments are particularly entertaining to read, as her acid tongue and sarcastic edge made me laugh on multiple occasions! Bonnie can be too whiny at parts, but when she does manage to shine, her narrative reveals a very endearing person underneath all the angst. And as the book went along, I found that I appreciated a lot of Kelly Thompson’s variations on superhero themes. Ever find it too convenient that all cartoon villains just happen to be criminal masterminds? Well, Lola’s journey shows us what happens when a aspiring supervillain just isn’t smart enough to figure out how to take over the world! Thought it seemed silly when 15-year old Peter Parker instantly acclimated to his powers (and managed to invent web-shooters besides)? Well, Bonnie’s journey takes a more realistic approach, as she often struggles with managing her new powers. In fact, the first-person commentary is often so fascinating, that had the overall story been better, I could have easily given this book 5 stars!
While I applaud Kelly Thompson’s persistence in getting this book published, I wish she had taken a little more time developing her craft. This book is an overall good read, but I believe that in the hands of a more seasoned writer, this could have been an excellent read! While this book certainly isn’t for everyone, if you’re looking for a different take on superheroes and don’t mind a bit of fluff with your story, you may want to give this one a try.