LGBTQ Book Review: Dreadnought by April Daniels

The cover of a book reveals the back of a girl wearing a cape, overlooking a city. It states, Dreadnought, April Daniels. Beside the book, text states, LGBTQ Book Review, followed by trans pride colors and the AL&HL logo.

Welcome to another LGBTQ book review! All reviews touch on genre/plot, tropes (if any), quality of LGBTQ content, and avoid most spoilers. Catch up on my last book review of Gender: Your Guide by Dr. Lee Airton. You can find all LGBTQ book reviews here.

I read Dreadnought as part of Jae’s Sapphic Reader Challenge. Read 10 (or more) sapphic books in 2021 to participate! You can read Jae’s full rules and guidelines on her website.

Dreadnought fits into the following categories for the Sapphic Reader Challenge:

  • Steampunk or gaslamp fantasy (I think the supernatural elements of the book make it count as Gaslamp? I could be wrong)
  • Character is a sapphic trans woman

Reading Dreadnought was also part of Sapphic Writers’ very first book club pick! Follow Sapphic Writers on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and keep an eye out for the latest book pick. We hold bi-monthly zoom meetings, alternating Thursdays and Saturdays. Check out our events page to get a free ticket.

A drawing of a cluttered desk shines a lamp on the word, events.

LGBTQ Book, Dreadnought: Light spoilers

Genre/Plot

This young adult superhero novel tells the story of closeted teen trans girl, Danny, who acquires the powers of a famous superhero, automatically changing her body to her “ideal” and viola! transitions to a girl without any treatments—just magic. As she finds comfort in her new body, Danny must decide if she has what it takes to be a world-respected superhero.

Characters/Relationships

  • In Dreadnought, LGBTQ representation goes to the T and the L, most obviously pointed more at the T. The plot centers around Danny’s trans identity, how she adjusts to the world finally seeing her as a girl, and how she could never give that up.
  • Although the book does make a point for Danny to declare herself a lesbian, there are no significant (or insignificant) romantic relationships in the story. The book explicitly describes Danny as “trans” and “lesbian.”
  • A side character in the novel is also briefly mentioned as sapphic, but there is no major focus on the identity for this character.

LGBTQ content assessment and warnings

While the novel does treat the trans identity of Danny with delicate, authentic care (April Daniels herself is a trans woman), the plot comes with many transphobic elements, including rejection from Danny’s parents, some friends, and new people she meets in the story. This rejection includes the use of slurs and emotional abuse, alluding to physical abuse.

Consider the list of such moments as content warnings, as it does not detract from the quality of writing or representation in the novel. Just know that this is not a particularly happy trans coming out story (but not altogether depressing either!); there are just factors that may be sensitive to some readers.

LGBTQ Book, Dreadnought Rating: Spoilers Ahead

I don’t read supernatural YA novels too often, so this was a bit off my usual path. I also have never read a novel with an explicitly trans character or a story that centers a character’s transness—long overdue!

As someone who is nonbinary, I’ve not felt compelled to seek transition in the ways many binary trans people do (although some nonbinary people may seek some forms of surgery or hormone replacement therapy). Therefore, learning about deep need and desire for Danny’s transition struck me. Though I have trans friends who have transitioned, looking into the soul-level identity from this perspective was particularly eye-opening and needed. I appreciate the entertainment aspect of the story while also learning about one trans girl’s experience.

Dreadnought also serves as book one in a series of currently two books (possibly more in the works). 10/10 will be buying the next book in the series ASAP.

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For all books bought and read for Sapphic Readers Book Club, I will be hosting a giveaway for each book after I read it. For a chance to win this book (worldwide, free shipping), follow me on Twitter and retweet the link to this blog (pinned Tweet). Giveaway closes on Thursday, March 11.

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