The new Man of Steel movie was interesting. This isn’t to say that I didn’t like it. In fact, there were parts that I outright loved. However, there were also a number of problematic elements in the film, but let’s start off with the good. Henry Cavill made an excellent Superman. He wasn’t bad to look at either, and let’s face it: Superman deserves some superhuman good looks. I also really liked Amy Adams as Lois Lane as well as how she figured out that whole Clark Kent/Superman thing really quickly in this movie. It always bothered me that Lois Lane was supposed to be some super-smart journalist and yet she couldn’t even figure out that her partner, who sits across from her on a daily basis, was, in fact, Superman. Face palm.
What I didn’t like: Now, I’m a fangirl, but I’m not really a big Superman fangirl. I’m more of an X-Men girl myself, so for most of these superhero movies I go in not expecting to get bogged down by the mythology and stories already laid out by the comics. My one huge exception is still X-Men: The Last Stand. I like to pretend that movie didn’t happen. All of those characters deserved better. Don’t even get me started. I mean, really, Cyclops? Really?!
Anyway, this Entertainment Weekly article (which contains spoilers) sums up exactly how I felt about the way they ended the Man of Steel movie. This totally messed with some hardcore Superman mythology that even felt weird for a neophyte like myself. For me, Man of Steel should have ended before their “epic” final fight scene. I’m putting quotations on that one because there were so many fight scenes in this movie that were all just about the same octane level that all of them left me wanting more. A good action film crescendos, and this one did not. Zack Snyder failed to deliver that much and left me scratching my head as to why the movie ended the way that it did in general.
Constructive criticism etiquette states to always end on a good note, so with that in my mind, let’s discuss why as a YA reader Man of Steel excited me so much. As an origin story, I loved the remixed Superman coming of age. All superhero stories are quintessential YA narratives about outsiders trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. This is their appeal. Superman always kind of bored me a bit because he came off as the football player/homecoming king even with his nerdier alter ego, Clark Kent. He was still very vanilla. While this film didn’t change that too much in my opinion, Man of Steel showed more of Clark’s coming of age story. The young soon-to-be-superhero comes to grip with who he is and what that means while also struggling with bullies and societal expectations. It just made him more of an interesting character.
With that in mind, here is a list of books that I would recommend to the young, struggling-to-fit-in Clark Kent. My list of favorite outsiders to keep you company and remind you to stay strong, be who you are.
- Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood: The Cahill sisters are different and always trying to hide who they really are, afraid of how their society will react to who they are and what they can do. A supernatural historical fiction drama with banned books, rebellious teenagers, and first love. Cate Cahill is a witch in hiding.
- Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine: A book about true friendship in the face of adversity. Marlee feels like a complete outsider all of the time, so she barely talks to anyone outside of her family — that is, until she meets Liz, the new girl in school, who just happens to have a secret of her own…
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2012 Alex Award Nominee): Wade is not the popular boy at school, nor does he have much of a home life to speak of, but he does love adventure and video games. He’s obsessed with the virtual reality world created by James Halliday, and his obsession will lead him on the adventure of a lifetime.
- Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge (Great Graphic Novels 2012): A graphic novel following Paige Turner’s move to NYC from Virginia and her struggle to find her place in NYC and herself as a person, a friend, a daughter, a girlfriend and an artist.
My all-time favorite classic outcasts:
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: “Stay gold, Pony Boy.”
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Boo Radley
- Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Nothing says outsider like an orphaned boy living with adopted “parents” who just don’t understand, only to find himself at a school where he is simultaneously a celebrity and bullying target.
Your turn, readers: what did you think of the Man of Steel movie? Who are your favorite outsiders?
— Katie Shanahan, currently reading The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen and The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman