Heroine's Journey - Come to the dark side, we have maladaptive coping techniques

title: Heroine's Journey
author: Sarah Kuhn
pages: 373
format: paperback
buy it: Amazon | B&N | BookDepository | Goodreads
rating: 5/5
genre: Urban Fantasy
topics: Biracial Character, Bisexual Character, Japanese Character, Demons, Grief, Family

Mamma knows best...

Several years after the end of Heroine Worship, Bea Tanaka is now 22 years old and working full time at a bookstore with her best friend, Leah. But she still wants to be a full-fledged member of her sister's superheroine team, kicking ass and taking names as demonic events occur all around San Francisco. She's resentful of her older sister constantly denying her wish, even though Bea has powerful superpowers of her own. But after Bea saves the day against a demon-possessed sculpture, she's promoted to Superheroine Probationary Intern.

Desperate to prove herself, Bea gets sucked into a mysterious voice claiming to be her mother, who passed ten years ago. A Bea follows the clues, she becomes more and more convinced that rescuing her mother could set right everything that's been wrong with her life and save the city in the process.

Family drama at it's best

This series has always been great at the twisty, bittersweet, complex drama between friends and family, and this book is no different. As Bea comes into her own as a young woman and struggles to find meaning as an adult, she comes head to head with her over-protective older sister who can't quite see her as more than a bratty teenager. Evie has her own surprise issues (no spoilers!) that come up near the end, and some of the fights between the two get intense. As Leah points out at one point: these two never fight over pizza toppings, no, they go straight for the deep cuts. But at the same there's a real warmth and love between the sisters that is constant through all their troubles and makes you know they're going to make it. Eventually. If they could just both calm down for two seconds...

It's not just sisterly drama that Bea has to navigate, but also her new and growing feelings for childhood friend Sam, and the way those feelings change the three-best-friends dynamic between her, Leah, and Sam. I loved Bea/Sam. They had a very sweet, supportive, genuine connection before the romance came in, and that never left as their feelings changed. He was just so....ugh healthy and sweet and I want one. This book had plenty of drama going on and I'm really glad that the romance drama didn't take center stage. (Like, it was still there, but it was obviously work-through-able and it was the least of the many dramas going on, which is exactly how I like my romance.)

Maladaptive coping techniques

One of the central themes in this book is grief and woah boy does it go in heavy on that subject for being such a lighthearted comedy in tone. It colors most of Bea and Evie's fights, and it especially comes into play once Bea starts chasing more information about her mother's death. Her search and the forces guiding it lead her to some do some questionable things, in a downward slide that starts slow and picks up speed. Her flirt with the dark side is extremely well handled and believable, and it's frankly heartbreaking near the end when she's at her most desperate. Her belief in what she's doing and the emotions behind her decisions are obviously wrong, but there's a tragic beauty in the way it's set up and the utter understandabilty of her journey. There's not a lot of grey morality here, there's just "I see you going down a wrong path and I'm helpless to stop you." But, like, with a lot of glitter.

Look, this is my pet peeve area and I just have to get it out of my system 

I have ADHD. I was diagnosed in high school and my management of things has been extremely variable over the years. And pretty soon into this book I started thinking "Bea has ADHD." Not just ADHD, but my ADHD. She lost focus in the middle of conversations. Her thought process led to her saying random non sequiturs at random. She couldn't hold down a relationship because of boredom. She was impulsive. She changed her life's ambition every couple of years. SHE HYPERFOCUSED. She was interest-motivated instead of reward-motivated at a lot of points. I related so fucking hard to so many parts of her mindset and I was so fucking excited to see an ADHD heroine in something that wasn't straight-up contemporary. I even text searched all the reviews on goodreads to see if someone else had mentioned it, but when I got nada I started to get apprehensive.

And, yup, sure enough, it's never mentioned in the book. At the end, all of (what I would call) her ADHD symptoms are kind of vaguely attributed to not processing her mother's death fully. Which, okay, to be fair, could be true. I'm not a psychologist; I don't know everything. Or anything. But I harbor a secret hope that when she goes to therapy, someone will tell her "you have trust issues AND adhd." (After all, the only person saying it was all grief was Bea, and she's not a psychologist, either.)

Oh well, it was still a great book and I'm off to read A Duke by Default, which does have an explicitly ADHD character. Wish me luck.

Will I read this author again? Of course.
Will I continue this series? It's called Unsung Heroine, it's out July 2, 2019, and IT'S SAPPHIC!

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