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After the Golden Age, by Carrie Vaughn

22 Mar

2011, Tor Books, ISBN 978-0-7653-6460-9

Plot Summary: After the Golden Age tells the story of a dysfunctional superhero family. Celia West is the 25-year-old daughter of two of Commerce City’s greatest superheroes, Warren and Suzanne West, aka Captain Olympus and Spark. Who wouldn’t want two superheroes for parents? Celia, for starters – her relationship with her hot-tempered father is strained, having felt like a disappointment to him for not having superpowers. Growing up, she felt that the City and its citizens came before her, and she was a target for kidnappers. At 16, she was kidnapped by the supervillain Destructor; at 17, she ran away from home to join him, further leading to a schism between Celia and her father.

Now a grown woman, Celia has turned her life around and works as a Certified Public Accountant. When the Destructor is captured and put on trial, Celia is called in to trace his money in the hopes of nailing him on tax evasion or fraud, Celia fears that her world will come crashing down again but takes on the assignment and discovers some disturbing links between her family, the Destructor, and the other “super” families in Commerce City. She also finds herself the target of a new super criminal on the rise – can she find out who it is before it’s too late, and will she and her father ever work out their difficult relationship?

Critical Evaluation: After the Golden Age tells the story of a dysfunctional family with a new perspective. While some kids dream about their parents being superheroes, Celia’s reality is quite different from the fantasy. She can never measure up, her parents put other priorities ahead of her, and she rebels. At its heart, it tells a story many families can relate to. While considered an adult novel, Golden Age‘s West family backstory gives it solid YA crossover potential. There is some romance thrown in, along with superhero battles, but at its heart, this is the story of a young woman trying to create her own identity separate from her family’s legacy. The writing is quick-paced and the character development gives the reader enough information to tell the story, with Celia receiving the most developed background – it should hold the reader’s interest, particularly teen females.

Reviews: Publishers Weekly (starred review): “Brilliantly structured, beautifully written…. Vaughn brings together mythology, fairy tales, and very human lives, immersing readers in the stories these complex characters tell themselves to make sense of their war-torn worlds.”

Kirkus Reviews: “In this warm homage to and deconstruction of classic comic books, a young woman demonstrates that you don’t need superpowers to be a hero.”

Awards: Nominee, American Library Association Alex Award (2012).

Reader’s Annotation: You may think that no one is perfect – but what happens when your parents are superheroes?

Author Information: Author Carrie Vaughn’s website offers links to more information about her novels and short stories, her blog, appearances, and her biography.

Genre: Fantasy. Subgenres: Families, Romance, Action/Adventure.

Booktalking Ideas: Having superhero parents made Celia West’s teen years even tougher than normal. Can you imagine having parents that everyone looked up to and thought were perfect? How would you feel if your own father gave you the feeling that you just couldn’t match up to his standards? Was Celia’s rebellion at 17 was warranted? Even though her juvenile records were sealed, her secret eventually came out and almost ruined her life. Does that make you think about how your actions now could affect your future? How?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 16+.

Challenge Issues/Defense: Some fantastic violence, mild sexuality. Defense: This is a superhero novel, and the violence is lighter than one could read by picking up a comic book these days. As for the sexuality, it is mostly implied, never graphic.

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?

I am a comic book and superhero fan. To see a story written with this background, taken into more of a fiction direction, interested me. I also thought it would be a great way to get young women reading and talking about fantasy.

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