Scholastic, 2010 181 pgs
Archvillain Series #1
School prankster and secret genius, Kyle, is planning a huge prank in an abandoned field. Out of nowhere he is hit with a wave of alien energy, which changes his body's make up, leaving him with super strength, even higher intelligence, and the ability to fly. Kyle was no the only boy in the field that night. "Mike" also got zapped by the energy, but has no memories of where he is from and how he got there. Mike gets taken in by a local family and immediately puts his super powers to good use helping folks in need. Kyle, meanwhile, has told no one about his powers and is using them to bring down Mike and get his former glory as the most popular boy in school back. Unfortunately for Kyle, the whole town is enamored by Mike, including Kyle's best fiend (and crush?) Mairi, and he become a local hero, fueling Kyle's desire for revenge. To this end, Kyle creates a computer based on his own personality and intelligence to help him bring down Mike. The computer becomes a constant snarky presence whom Kyle talks to ceaselessly and they develop a love/hate relationship. In Kyle's efforts to expose Mike as an alien fraud and gain back his popularity, he unwittingly causes trouble and destruction. evolving into an misunderstood evil nemesis. Our story ends with Mike still actively saving the world and beloved by all and Kyle still jealously struggling and determined for revenge. The story continues with two more installments in the series, ending with the answer to Mike's real identity and origin.
My quest continues to read as many superhero books as possible before my superhero summer reading club begins. This book is great and, although I won't be directly using it for a program this summer, I want to lead into my fall book discussion group for fifth and sixth graders with it. Archvillain has a natural hook for readers: who wouldn't want to suddenly develop super powers and the ability to fly? What sets this book apart from the average fair is that the main character goes evil, which is far more interesting than a reluctant hero. We see Kyle's motivation and even (kind of) root for him. We also see that he is driven by jealousy and is an unhappy person. The villain's point of view will help children see the world in a different way, give lots of fodder for discussion, and teach subtle lessons in morality that children won't be aware that they are learning. Lyga is a great author. He manages to deliver an exciting and entertaining story all while sneaking in some substance. Kyle is an awesome character. He reminds me of Oliver from I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President. Kids love young characters who are more clever than the adults in their lives and have power. Its fun to walk in Kyle's shoes, but the reader still sees that although Mike isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, he is the happier and better person. On top of all the action and adventure Lyga offers, there is also great humor in this book. I would highly recommend Archvillains to all readers, especially reluctant boys. Will Kyle remain bent on destroying Mike? Is Mike actually an alien? I have to read on in the series to find out.