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The Vindico by Wesley King (2012)
The Vindico (2012)
by Wesley King
Hardcover Edition
Publication Date: June 14th, 2012
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
buy a copy via Amazon.
synopsis via Goodreads.

Book Promo:

The Vindico are a group of supervillains who have been fighting the League of Heroes for as long as anyone can remember. Realizing they’re not as young as they used to be, they devise a plan to kidnap a group of teenagers to take over for them when they retire—after all, how hard can it be to teach a bunch of angsty teens to be evil?Held captive in a remote mansion, five teens train with their mentors and receive superpowers beyond their wildest dreams. Struggling to uncover the motives of the Vindico, the teens have to trust each other to plot their escape. But they quickly learn that the differences between good and evil are not as black and white as they seem, and they are left wondering whose side they should be fighting on after all . . .

My Thoughts:
X-men meets the Breakfast Club? Doesn’t that sound exciting or what? I was interested when I heard about The Vindico in the beginning of the year, and I was excited to finally read it when I saw it on the shelves. Unfortunately, The Vindico just didn’t work for me on so many levels. The concept was fresh, but the execution was just disappointing. Perhaps it would have been better suited as a lower-middle grade novel rather than young adult with it’s simple writing style; the plot was fun but also unbelievably unrealistic along with the poorly fleshed out characters. The more the story progresses, the messier it becomes with the countless introduction of new minor, forgettable characters left and right, and messy fight scenes.

I am surprised Putnam picked this one up; The Vindico was like a graphic novel that didn’t translate very well into novel format. I’m disappointed that an interesting concept was turned into a very corny (borderline lame) superhero story. However, it is a fun and often humorous book–and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a younger audience (especially Marvel/DC fans.)

A group of teenagers from 13 to 17 are kidnapped to be trained as part of The Vindico, a group of evil super-villians, to fight against The League (a group of superheros.) They are given superpowers like telekinesis, telepathy, or just super strength.

The Beginning:
One of worst openings ever. The first five chapters where basically dedicated to each of the five protégées, telling how they were kidnapped at home or from school. I found it a complete drag, utterly frustrating, and unnecessary. It would’ve worked better if all of them just woke up in unfamiliar surroundings from the beginning for suspense.
You might as well just read the first chapter, replace the names with the other four protégées, and jump right to the sixth chapter.

A Hodgepodge of Characters (You’ll Forget 90% of Them):
This novel has a severe case of too-many-characters-doing-too-many-things syndrome.
Five protégées, five villain mentors, one coordinator dude, two other children, plus a whole slew of The League people with “superhero” names–way too many people for 300 pages. Here is where I think the author bit off more than he could chew: with eleven people running around under a roof, things are bound to get messy. There’s just not enough room to well-develop all of them, making every character simple and flat. I was struggling with names throughout the novel. Even the funky, “super-villain” names didn’t help. As a result, many characters fade into the background.
I also had an issue with Lana and Leni, because of the two-letter difference in their names and the fact that they are frequently in the same scene, I often had to do a double-take.

The Protégées (This Word Is A Hassle To Type):
I know they are teenagers, but they are surprisingly shallow. “OH SHOOT! I GOT KIDNAPPED BY MASS MURDERS!!…wait, I get SUPERPOWERS and I can live in this fancy mansion??? NEVERMIND THE MASS MURDERS, I’M STAYING! LALALALALALA”

Emily: I like her sense of humor, but she is so stereotypical: the smart, geeky Chinese hacker. (Maybe it’s because I’m Chinese that I’m being too sensitive)

Sam: The crybaby and the youngest of the group. For some reason he gets assigned to wear a suit.

Lana: The blonde harlot. (only because other words will get censored from Amazon)

James: The loser who gets dumped (and tries to beat his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend up, but fails miserably and faints instead) and wants to make everyone suffer with him. At one point, his mentor punches the new boyfriend out a bus window to get revenge for him–not knowing that he was in the middle of apologizing for his mistakes. It annoyed me that James was happy to see his classmate severely injured. There is no excuse for being that heartless, not even if you are a super-villain. Obviously, I dislike this guy.

Hayden: The other funny one in the group who doesn’t know when to shut up. Good comic-relief though. His laid-back attitude makes him stand out but he also comes off as a stuck-up pervert. This guy proposes a game of spin-the-bottle to “get to know each other.” I suspect the spin-the-bottle game kept this book from being classified as a middle-grade.

The Lamest Villains Ever (Do These Adults Even Have A Diploma?):
The only semi-memorable villain was The Torturer, because of his ridiculous name. They all have their backstories, but most were just products of being overdramatic: “THEY KICKED ME OUT! THEY DIDN’T LET ME JOIN THEIR EXCLUSIVE PARTY! OH NO, I HAVE TO GET REVENGE! KILL KILL KILL!” (if you have such violent tendencies, it’s no surprise they want to kick you out. *hint hint*) I suppose King wanted to add a layer of human emotion to the villains by making them feel paternal towards the children, I saw it–but it didn’t work. It was a pity that Leni, one of the villains who was plotting to redeem himself, never got the opportunity to carry out his plan.

As part of Vindico’s “brilliant” plan to mentally intimidate (or to stop them from being attached to their families) the protégées, they dig up these scandalous family “secrets” and announce them in hopes of making the kids feel unloved by families. Seriously. This guy comes out and says something like “You know your ex-girlfriend that you asked out when you were twelve? Well, she cheated on you! And your best friend knew! MUHAHAHAHAHAHA! FEEL THE BURN! MUHAHAHAHA And your parents? They didn’t even care when you were missing! NYAH NYAH NYAH”

And the sad thing is, he actually think its working. That’s about the lamest excuse for intimidation I’ve ever heard of. The worse part, he makes five of these omg-are-you-serious “scary” announcements. Every time I wince at the corniness.

Death Is Taken So Lightly
Maybe because the book was targeted at younger audiences that the concept of death must be glazed over, but I have issues with how death is handled. To “prove” that the villains scary, it is revealed how they killed all these superheroes. And then the superheros supposedly killed some people as well as part of a conspiracy. It is only briefly mentioned how they got killed and it basically treated as inconsequential minor events. No guilt is ever involved with the adults. I was relieved when Lana (one of the protégées) felt guilty about killing a superhero–but she was let off the hook very easily.

The death that tested my limits was when Emily was smugly told that her grandfather died of heartbreak while looking for his missing granddaughter during her “announcement.” I know that the announcements was supposed to show how heartless the Vindico was, but it annoyed me that Emily took the event so lightly. I was expecting her to escape to see her grandfather (or at least attend the funeral), but she basically forgot about the whole thing after like a day. YOUR GRANDFATHER DIED WHILE SEARCHING FOR YOU, GIRL. THAT’S SERIOUS BUSINESS, NOW STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR TOYS AND DO SOMETHING.

Lana, taking insta-love to a whole new level. “OH NO! He has such a soft, hidden side to him! I LIKE HIM! I don’t care if he’s acting like a stuck-up pervert! I’m going to kiss him!” There’s also this poorly constructed love triangle…but only because James didn’t confess his love and was too busy moping about it.
And, you don’t ask for a date in the middle of a fight, just sayin’.

Structure/Writing Style:
I don’t know if the third person omniscient perspective was the right way to go. I would have preferred the third person limited narrator to keep the suspense element, or even first person for each of the teens. I found the novel too juvenile, simplistic, and completely rejects the “show don’t tell” mantra. “THIS HAPPENED..AND THEN THIS OTHER THING…AND THEN THIS…X IS FEELING SAD, Y IS FEELING ANGRY, B IS WORRIED…C HAS A SECRET PLOT” Even a few of those disgusting adverbs sneaked in.

The narrative often felt unbearably stoic, especially between the adults because they all speak in this pseudo-evil “tone.”; nobody speaks in perfect, full sentences, only cyborgs do that. Part of the reason was because the adults were used for info-dumping, turning them into talkative drones more than fleshed-out people.

Messy Fight Scenes:
Mind-control doesn’t make a good fight scene. Unless it’s like Inception. That’s all.

I guess this is the problem with superheroes: they have so many cool gadgets and awesome powers that they can do anything. And because they are so “perfect,” they are boring. Often, the novel reliance on gadgets annoyed me–they are superheros, they don’t need guns, missiles, and RIFLES(what the heck?), that stuff is for losers. The gadgets dragged down the story with extraneously mundane descriptions: I don’t want to hear how she has guns in her belt, the color of her clothes, and miscellaneous cannisters on her shoulder.

The Blur Between Good and Evil…Was Non-existent
The synopsis promised that the teens would “earn that the differences between good and evil are not as black and white as they seem” but it ended up incredibly simplistic.

I wanted to see how the conflict between good and evil will play out. But it disappointed me how black and white these kids were: they referred to the villains as “bad guys” and the superheros as “good guys.” Sure the villains killed people, but the superheros aren’t innocent either. They were sometimes conflicted, but pretty much got over it in a few seconds. In the end, I am not sure if The League were even the “good guys.” I felt there could have been a lot more depth since morality was a major theme.

Overall, The Vindico was a major disappointment. It was like if someone took Sky High and squished it with The Incredibles and made it super corny. The fascinating concept of conspiracy, character development, and morality themes were thrown out to make room for banal writing that focused on describing clothes, gadgets, and chaotic action sequences. Perhaps the novel would’ve translated better as a movie, graphic novel, or even a younger middle-grade novel. But young adult novel? No.

Rating: C-