REVIEW | Cute Mutants Volume 2: Young, Gifted and Queer | SJ Whitby

I love these superqueeroes, and this is absolutely my favourite discovery of 2020. I adore this series and each book is better than the one before. I reviewed Cute Mutants Vol 1: Mutant Pride on the blog, here, and I’ve got a review of Cute Mutants Vol 3: The Demon Queer Saga coming out soon! These are an insta buy for me, and I recommend them highly.

Rating: 5 stars!

Trigger Warnings: homophobia, transphobia, violence, gore, mutilation, self harm (as a way to use superpowers), death.

About the book:

“I spent my life dreaming of being invited to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Turns out irl it has the vibe of a Dark Kermit gif. I just want to stay in the closet kissing my hot girlfriend.”

Despite the chaos and me being a dumpster fire, things turned out okay last time. We beat the villain, and I’m part of a superteam. I have cool friends, and somehow (don’t jinx it, Dylan), I even got the girl. Not just any girl—the icy badass who’s secretly soft-hearted. Things should be great, right? Now the government’s come knocking, and we’re summoned to superhero school. Which is a dream come true, except it’s run by a corporation. But not all corporations are shady, right? It’s fine, if you can get over the teeny, tiny problem that there’s also an evolution-obsessed organisation trying to figure us out. Plus, it turns out we aren’t as rare as we thought. There’s another group of mutants with dangerous powers running loose, and we’re the ones who’ll have to stop them. I hope the part on my school records that says “near-pathological disregard for authority” isn’t going to come back and bite me. Maybe it’ll be the thing that saves us.

What did I think?

This book really kicked this series into high gear. If I thought the first book was intense, I had no idea what was coming for me. It just makes me more excited for volume 3 though (which is currently sat in my inbox, but I needed to review this before I let myself devour it. Cute Mutants Volume 2 definitely begins to develop the wider implications of people becoming powered. We find out more about the world, and that there are more mutants out there. We also get to find out more about the corporations that we met in the first book. I don’t want to dip into any spoilers, but SHOCKER governmental corporations suck. A lot of my favourite things from my first review (which you can read here) were still just as relevant in this one, and it shows a kind of consistency that puts SJ Whitby firmly on my favourite authors (and auto-buy) list. How often do we get a sequel that doesn’t just hold up to the first one, but is even better? I can’t wait to see how SJ keeps improving and I will definitely be along for the ride. Again Volume 2 felt like a complete arc so I felt like we had a satisfying ending, but with enough left to make me want to keep reading. I’m glad I had volume 3 coming so soon, the wait until April for volume 4 is going to be PAINFUL, but I trust that SJ will keep things tied up beautifully – and it’ll be worth the wait.

I loved the character development in this book and the new characters we met. The characters are perfect; they struggle with right and wrong and good and evil, it brings me a lot of joy to watch them develop not only their powers but also their sense of responsibility. The new mutants added to the roster are equally interesting, their powers just as complicated and intense as the Cute Mutants and I already know I’m going to have a new favourite superpower couple. Our old favourites are still here and I liked seeing them grow into a stronger team with every single mission. It feels like their powers start to evolve during Volume 2 and that is super exciting to me because I really want to see how much further they go (okay I also want them to get OP and kick ass, but that’s just me). Dani and Dylan’s relationship is still new and shiny and watching them navigate it kind of makes me want to scream into a pillow – which I’m pretty sure Pillow agrees with. But my favourite new relationship? Dylan and Oni! Oni!!!!!! Love of my life, I can’t wait to see what chaotic nonsense Oni comes up with in the next book. And yes a sentient katana is allowed to be my favourite character, when they come with as much personality as SJ Whitby manages to give the sentient objects

In my review of Volume 1, I talked about tone a little, and I stand by the fact that SJ Whitby has pitch-perfect tone. This book is definitely darker than Volume 1 which feels right, things are harder and the intensity has gone up, but we still have those witty moments that made me laugh out loud at my book. There’s also still that strong element of queer joy that I loved in Volume 1. Yes, there’s trauma here and yes unfortunately there is death (I am so mad, SJ, I am still so mad) but I didn’t leave this book miserable. Reading left me feeling empowered and excited and a little like I wanted to set fire to our stupid cisnormative, heteronormative universe. I have a lot of respect for a book that can make me want to cry and laugh at the same time. Again the plot is incredible, well supported by the tone and the characters, but again I’m not going to get into it too much. I don’t want to spoil things – you can all suffer through the same stress I did.

The Cute Mutants series is, to me, a MUST BUY, and I will not stop screeching until everyone I know is reading it.

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SJ Whitby lives in New Zealand with their partner, as well as various children and animals. They are predictably obsessed with X-Men and spend too much of their free time writing.

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