The Cloak Society, Book 1
By Carrie R. Wheadon,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Supervillain-in-training tale a good fit for superhero fans.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids get plenty of exposure to superhero stories from an early age -- but usually not from the perspective of the villains. Here's an opportunity to think closely about what's expected in the superhero genre. What attributes do heroes have? Villains? What are their goals? There are brief mentions of war strategies the young supervillains learn about through books such as Sun Tzu's The Art of War. In class they debate "the prisoner's dilemma," a scenario often studied in game theory.
At the center of the story is Alex's struggle to understand and do what's right, even if it goes against everything he's been taught, it's the harder choice, and the choice is between family loyalty and what's right. Also, a little understanding can turn perceived enemies into friends.
Positive Role Models
Alex makes an incredibly difficult and admirable transformation when he comes up against what he believes is right vs. what he's been taught his whole life. The biggest superhero of them all, Lone Star, hates the idea of killing anyone, even in a battle against supervillains trying to kill him. Alex's supervillain parents, along with all other adults on the High Council, are driven by revenge, but they point out that the one thing that makes the Cloak Society special is that they're not just in it for themselves; they work together.
Violence & Scariness
The Cloak Society opens with a bank robbery with brainwashed hostages, some gunfire, and some fighting among tweens and teens with superpowers using fists, plants, large animal claws, and energy fields. There's another climactic battle among supers, adults, and kids, bringing about injuries and a major loss. In-between both is talk about parents and relatives lost in a big battle between superheroes and supervillains. Superheroes get lost in the Gloom, another plane of existence where they waste away, lost in the dark. Supervillains spar for practice and incur some injuries.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A small crush.
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Two mentions of curses -- a "garbled" curse in battle and curses spoken along with Lone Star's name -- but no actual words on the page.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Cloak Society gets its name from a group of supervillains who rob a bank with the help of superpowered tweens and teens at the beginning of the story. The main character, Alex, has second thoughts about growing into a powerful supervillain he must grapple with throughout the book. He also senses superheroes in a plane called the Gloom, who have been left there in the dark to waste away. A climactic battle causes injuries and more loss, but little is described. It's mentioned twice that curses are uttered, but the actual words are not used.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
As the son of two supervillains in the Cloak Society, Alex Knight and his telekinetic powers are destined for terrible greatness. That is, until he's taken off the Beta Team of junior villains after he botches a bank heist. Not only do his powers fail him when he's trying to crack a safe, his conscience gets in the way when a fellow villain tries to take out a young and kinda cute superhero named Kirbie. Alex saves her just in time. Kirbie is training to be a Ranger of Justice, led by Lone Star, defeater of the Cloak Society in a great battle before Alex was born. Fraternizing with the enemy, without a doubt, is strictly forbidden, especially at a time like this when the Cloak Society is planning the comeback of a lifetime. But if it's only one time -- OK, maybe two -- Alex wonders what harm it would really cause to sneak out and talk to the enemy who owes him her life.
Is It Any Good?
This is a good fit for the already superhero-crazed reader -- especially one who wants to take a break from knowing what all the do-gooder heroes are thinking and sneak into the head of the villain. Or even think what it would be like to be raised by supervillain parents who want you to grow up to be the ultimate supervillain. Talk about pressure. And a mom who can read your mind? Can't think of a scarier mom superpower for a kid.
The key characters developed here will probably do a good job carrying the series as it grows. Alex's genius tinkerer friend Gage will definitely come in handy. The vaporizing Misty will, too. There are some missed opportunities for more depth in the story, especially as Alex grapples with his conscience and deals with his demanding parents. Staying closer to the surface gives The Cloak Society more of a TV-pilot-meets-comic-book vibe, which works fine. Kids who only want to see superpowers battle it out will not miss the deep stuff in the slightest, though the effort would have turned pretty good writing into super stuff.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about superheroes vs. supervillains. Which would you rather be? What do the superheroes think their role in society is? What do the villains think?
Kids can talk about Alex's difficult decision. Can you think of a time when you knew making the right decision was harder? What did you decide? Is it easier to go along with a group or to follow your own path?
Compare this to other superpowered stories you like. What's similar? What's different? Do you like seeing the villain's side of the story? What do you think will happen in the sequel?
- Author: Jeramey Kraatz
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Superheroes
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: October 2, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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