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The Dysasters

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Dysasters Book Poster Image
Teen superhero tale has potential but also some cliches.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Superhero fantasy meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Love is stronger than hate. Acting in anger only brings more destruction or harm. You'll never go wrong if you err on the side of kindness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroes and villains are a mix of Caucasian and African American; the heroes include a Cajun and a transgender woman. Ethnicity and race aren't raised as issues within the story, but it does include some of Charlotte's struggles as a transgender person. Foster and Cora model a strong, loving, interracial-adoptive relationship with close, deep family bonds. The heroes learn to use their powers in positive ways to help people. The villains use their powers destructively but are trying to free themselves from their father's maniacal hold on them.

Violence

Some scariness and suspense from characters in danger. Large-scale damage from natural-disaster events like tornadoes and hurricanes mention destruction, dead bodies, and occasionally blood with no gore and very little detail. A couple of confrontations involve fighting with magical abilities. A man makes a sexually suggestive remark while rubbing his crotch in a scary, tense scene. A dog is set on fire with a safe resolution. Verbal hostility and threats.

Sex

A few kisses described briefly, one mentions a flicking tongue, and there's one illustration of a kiss. One character mentions losing her virginity at 15. Teens mention sleeping in separate rooms until one of them is "more than ready." An unpleasant character in a scary setting rubs his crotch and tells a teen he bets she gives "one hell of a b.j." Having big boobs mentioned. Mention of something being dirty but "not in the good, sexy way."

Language

"F--k," "f--king," "p---ies" (calling names), "d--k" (calling names), "s--t," "b.j.," "ass," "bitch," "bitchy," "crap," "damn," "hell," "boobs," and "douche."

Consumerism

Incidental food, beverage, car, and fashion products mentioned by name. Learning things like how to start a car without a key by watching YouTube videos.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult is addicted to crystals that magically appear on his adult daughter's body and there's mention that he feels high when she magically passes the crystals to him. His appearance and behavior are poor when he "needs a fix," and he "needs" the crystals more and more frequently. Brief description of feeling the same as a time in the past when a teen had a half bottle of champagne. Adults mention drinking beer once or twice.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dysasters is the first in a planned superhero-fantasy series by the mother-daughter team behind the popular House of Night Other World series. It's sprinkled with black-and-white illustrations, graphic-novel style. Violence mostly involves teens and adults with superhero abilities using air, water, fire, and earth to cause large-scale destruction like tornadoes and hurricanes. Blood and dead bodies are mentioned a few times but not described in detail. A man makes a sexually suggestive remark to a teen girl while rubbing his crotch in a scary, tense scene. A dog is set on fire with a safe resolution. Lots of positive African American representation as well as of a loving, interracial adoptive family with strong family bonds, and a positive representation of a transgender teen. Sexy stuff is mostly a few kisses briefly described, one illustration of a kiss, an instance of thinking about sleeping arrangements, and one of something being dirty but not in a "good, sexy way." An adult is addicted to magical crystals. There's lots of strong language including "f--k," "d--k," and being "p---ies." 

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What's the story?

THE DYSASTERS are a new team of superheroes: four pairs of teens who come into their powers on their 18th birthday. Each pair is tied to one element:  air, water, fire, or earth. This series kickoff introduces us to Foster and Tate, who are tied to air, and Charlotte and Bastien, whose element is water. Chasing the four teens down in order to take them back to a secret island to be experimented on are Eve, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These four are chafing under their scientist-father's demands and long for the freedom that bringing new, young blood to his island laboratory will grant them. But how far will they go, and how many have to be hurt so that they can be free? And can The Dysasters find and get to the others before Eve and her brothers get to them?

Is it any good?

Fans of superhero stories will enjoy this newcomer to the genre, but a few shortcomings may keep it from winning new fans over. Gamma radiation, parental loss, a mad scientist, a touch of romance -- The Dysasters has plenty of classic superhero building blocks. But readers who find those elements more cliché than classic may have a hard time putting up with the trite dialogue and predictable storyline.

It's almost as if the story's being told in the wrong medium. It feels like it should be a graphic novel, or better still a movie. The illustrations are relatively few, in black and white, and fall a little flat, which may prevent fans of one genre or the other from crossing over. Still, it's great to see such an even distribution of racial representation on both the hero and villain sides. As we get to know the characters, they become more realistic and easy to relate to. There's still a lot of story yet to tell, and for fans to look forward to.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the strong language in The Dysasters. Is it realistic? Is reading the words different from hearing them at school or in movies, games, videos, etc.? What are your values, and you family's values, when it comes to strong language?

  • What character strengths and life skills do the main characters have? What do you like about them? What are their weaknesses? Who's your favorite character, and why?

  • If you could choose to be tied to air, water, fire, or earth, which element would you choose? Why? What abilities do you wish it would give you?

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