My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s very hard to do funny in the world of children’s and young adult literature. It’s even harder to do funny that doesn’t shift over to being cruel. Louise Rennison was the queen at this, balancing her delicious and hysterical prose with a genuine love for the world. My Gym Teacher is An Alien Overlord, the second book in the My Brother is A Superhero (these titles!) series, reminds me a lot of Rennison at her best. Though it’s written for a younger audience, My Gym Teacher has that similar sense of heart. It revels in its space and it’s bright, swift and deeply, genuinely, funny.
Luke’s brother, Zack, has superpowers. Luke’s friend, Lara, has superpowers (and a gift for delicious malapropisms). Luke has resentment and a side order of ‘knowing exactly what is happening with the aliens about to invade Earth but nobody is listening to him let alone all the people with superpowers itis’. It is the second in a series and several of the references will definitely make more sense if you’ve read its predecessor, My Brother Is A Superhero. This shouldn’t be too much of a trial though as both books are a deep delight to read.
There’s a thing about children’s books in that quite often they have to appeal to both child and adult; books don’t arrive in children’s hands like magic. They have to get there and in that process get past a whole host of gatekeepers. I’m one of them. You’re another, that lady’s nan is one, that guy down the road is another. What Solomons does, in his deeply satisfying and packed with in-joke prose, is that he ticks all the boxes necessary to open those gates without neglecting the quality of what he’s writing. It’s a difficult road to travel. You don’t write for children whilst writing for adults. But – this series is rapidly developing into something that’s for everyone regardless of age or literary leanings. And that’s a great, great gift.