Heroine Worship by Sarah KuhnHeroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine Worship

bySarah Kuhn

Paperback | July 4, 2017

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Asian-American superheroines Evie Tanaka and Aveda Jupiter protect San Francisco from perilous threats in the second book in Sarah Kuhn's snarky and smart fantasy trilogy • "The superheroine we’ve been waiting for." Seanan McGuire

Once upon a time, Aveda Jupiter (aka Annie Chang) was demon-infested San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine, a beacon of hope and strength and really awesome outfits. But all that changed the day she agreed to share the spotlight with her best friend and former assistant Evie Tanaka—who’s now a badass, fire-wielding superheroine in her own right.  They were supposed to be a dynamic duo, but more and more, Aveda finds herself shoved into the sidekick role. Where, it must be said, she is not at all comfortable.

It doesn’t help that Aveda’s finally being forced to deal with fallout from her diva behavior—and the fact that she’s been a less than stellar friend to Evie. Or that Scott Cameron—the man Aveda’s loved for nearly a decade—is suddenly giving her the cold shoulder after what seemed to be some promising steps toward friendship. Or that the city has been demon-free for three months in the wake of Evie and Aveda’s apocalypse-preventing battle against the evil forces of the Otherworld, leaving Aveda without the one thing she craves most in life: a mission.

All of this is causing Aveda’s burning sense of heroic purpose—the thing that’s guided her all these years—to falter.

In short, Aveda Jupiter is having an identity crisis.

When Evie gets engaged and drafts Aveda as her maid-of-honor, Aveda finally sees a chance to reclaim her sense of self and sets out on a single-minded mission to make sure Evie has the most epic wedding ever. But when a mysterious, unseen supernatural evil rises up and starts attacking brides-to-be, Aveda must summon both her superheroine and best friend mojo to take down the enemy and make sure Evie’s wedding goes off without a hitch—or see both her city and her most important friendship destroyed forever.
Sarah Kuhn is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote The Ruby Equation for the comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella One Con Glory, which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her articles an...
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Title:Heroine WorshipFormat:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.8 inPublished:July 4, 2017Publisher:DawLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0756413265

ISBN - 13:9780756413262

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Chapter One I LOVE BEING a superhero.   I love that sense of purpose, welling in my chest. That pride that comes with knowing I’m doing good in this world, protecting those who can’t protect themselves. That satisfying sensation of my fist connecting with some demon asshole’s face.   I love doing what I do best. Because if you can’t be the best at something, what’s the point?   “Help us, Aveda Jupiter!”   The voice rang out through the crisp morning air as I sprinted down the long slope of one of San Francisco’s im­possibly steep hills, catapulting myself toward the Mission’s latest hipster brunch spot, Egg (because all hipster brunch spots need names that are minimalist yet also completely on the nose). A crowd of innocent citizens cowered near the doorway, menaced by a gigantic monster made out of cereal. I squinted at the thing. It was actually a collection of tiny cereal demons who appeared to have imprinted on a bowl of Grape-Nuts. Somehow, they’d figured out how to assemble themselves into a towering, vaguely human-shaped thing that looked like a swarm of crunchy beige flies and snapped, crackled, and popped with every move. Like Voltron, only part of your balanced breakfast.   “RAAAAWRRRR!” Cereal Monster bellowed, swing­ing a crumbly fist at a woman in a bright blue dress. She stumbled out of the way in the nick of time, her face twisted with fear.   “We need you, Aveda Jupiter!” she screamed.   “Thank god you’re here!” added a man in a ratty flannel shirt.   “What would the city do without you?!” chimed in a teenage girl wearing clunky glasses and an oversized t-shirt with my face on it. “Also, I love your outfit!”   I was clad in a silver tank top bedazzled with about a thousand sequins, snug leather pants, and over-the-knee boots that were ready to kick some serious breakfast-time ass. The outfit was practical enough to allow for a wide range of movement, but sleek enough to show off the toned physique I’d spent hours perfecting at the gym. And my long black hair was of course pulled into its signature power ponytail, which whipped majestically in the wind as I motored through the last few steps down the hill.   “Love the hair, too!” Clunky Glasses yelped.   I narrowed my eyes at the Cereal Monster, taking stock of the scene. The thing’s movements were labored and lum­bering, but it had still managed to thoroughly destroy Egg’s whimsical oval doorway and was stomping toward the screaming people on the street, swinging its massive paws.   “Hey, you!” I yelled, skidding to a stop in front of it. Adrenaline hummed through my veins, the heady anticipa­tion of battle heightening my senses and making me feel so present and alive and needed.   “Rawr?” Cereal Monster turned to face me, its unwieldy body rustling in a way I might have been unsettled by if I hadn’t faced countless demon threats way more terrifying.   I’d take this one down like I’d taken all of them down— with badass confidence, my fabulous outfit, and a series of powerful roundhouse kicks. It was the Aveda Jupiter Way.   I straightened my spine, my joints cracking and popping, sweat beading on my shoulder blades, my field of vision narrowing until it was just me and my nutritious nemesis.   “Prepare to be destroyed, you Frosted Fakes!” I growled.   “Whoa, excellent one-liner!” yelled Blue Dress Lady.   “You tell ’em, Aveda!” added Flannel Shirt.   “We love you so much!” wailed Clunky Glasses, practi­cally in tears. “And your mother’s wrong, those pants are totally flattering.”   I launched myself into the air, my muscles humming with pleasure, my chest swelling with heroic pride, my—   “Annie?”   I was jerked out of my daydream by the sound of my given name. My real name, according to some, though I still secretly disputed that. I’d christened myself Aveda Jupiter when I was eighteen, and I’d never looked back.   I couldn’t help but deflate as the action-packed scenario I’d been imagining melted away, morphing into the much more mundane existence that was my current reality. Where I was sitting at a boring breakfast table, eating Grape-Nuts that weren’t even a little bit demonic, and wearing sweatpants.   Sweat. Pants.   Sigh.   Evie Tanaka, my best friend, current co-superheroine and former personal assistant, studied me from the other side of the breakfast table. Along with the other members of our strange little household/superteam, we were sitting in the cluttered kitchen of the lower Haight Victorian we called home. When there was superheroing to do, it also served as our HQ.   But right now there was no superheroing to do. There was, in fact, nothing to do. And as San Francisco’s leading— well, co-leading— superheroine, I need things to do. Which is why I’d given in to a perfectly good daydream.   In reality, the only Cereal Monster I was fighting these days was a stray Grape-Nut I’d been chasing around my cereal bowl with my spoon. I’d nudge the Grape-Nut, it would bounce forward. My spoon, refusing to be deterred, would follow. I was basically simulating an extremely dull miniature car chase.   Watch out, Grape-Nuts! Aveda Jupiter has a spoon. And she’s not afraid to use it.   “Annie?” Evie repeated. “Do you want another bowl of that?” She gestured to my Grape-Nut car chase arena. “Second cereal course?”   I did not want second cereal course, which came between first cereal course and chocolate pudding course. Evie had invented the breakfast course order a few weeks ago. It was quirky, adorable, and a little messy— just like her.   The truth was, I didn’t want breakfast to drag on for an­other two hours, which was typical of breakfasts during our current state of Nothing To Do. Three months earlier, Evie and I had prevented the apocalypse. We’d destroyed a power-hungry demon princess bent on taking over the city, shut down all portals to the evil dimension known as the Otherworld, and turned San Francisco into a demon-free haven for the first time in eight years. It was a beautiful moment, and I’d felt hope and pride and love surging through me, a potent brew that powered me through the first month of absolutely nothing happening.   The second month, I’d started feeling twitchy.   The third month, I’d declared myself officially bored.   Now we were creeping into month four, and I was ready to start climbing the walls— literally.   “Of course,” I said, forcing a smile. “Who doesn’t love second cereal course?”   (Me. I don’t.)   “Nate!” Evie called out to her hulking half-demon of a boyfriend. “While you’re up, get Annie some of that saw­dust cereal she likes!” Nate, who was standing at the kitchen counter, surveying the cereal selection, turned and gave her an indulgent smile.   “Anything for you,” he said, his deep rumble of a voice contrasting with the cozy atmosphere of the kitchen.   Thanks to his six-foot-four stature, harsh features, and shock of unruly dark hair, Nate— who served as our physi­cian and demonology expert— had been described by some as “tall, dark, and glower-y.” But when he looked at Evie, his eyes softened and the darkness receded. It was sweet, but it also made me feel like I was witnessing something intensely private and should avert my eyes. They’d been together since the events of three months ago and were as disgustingly mushy as two people in the throes of new love could be.   “Darling, you know I’m pleased as punch about your coupled-off bliss,” said Lucy Valdez, our weapons expert and personal trainer, as Nate made his way back to the ta­ble. “But the goo-goo eyes quotient has been off the charts this week.” She gave an exaggerated pout that would have melted the hearts of people who didn’t know her as well as we did. Lucy was deceptively delicate-looking, tiny and elf­ish with a penchant for prim, girly outfits. But underneath that innocent surface lurked a powerful fighter with an ex­tensive knife collection. “It’s a bit rough on those of us who are tragically single,” she continued, drawing out the pout.   “And that’s everyone else at this table,” piped up Evie’s seventeen-year-old sister Bea. She shook her head, her cap of purple-streaked hair bobbing back and forth, and waved her bedazzled phone at Evie disapprovingly. “Tragically single people are the total majority.”   “I’m sorry,” Evie said, as Nate set Grape-Nuts in front of me and Lucky Charms in front of her. He settled into the chair next to her and ran an affectionate hand through her tangle of dark brown curls. She twisted sideways in her seat, draping her legs over his lap. “What would be an accept­able level of goo-goo eyes? Should we avoid looking at each other entirely?”   “Maybe take it down to one ‘goo,’ ” said Scott Cameron, our resident mage. He gave her a teasing smile and a play­ful nudge. “Like, the singular goo.”   “The singular goo!” Lucy chimed in. “I like it.”   “The Singular Goo sounds like a comic book villain,” Evie countered. “And a really shitty one at that.”   “Speaking of comic books,” I said, perking up. “I was thinking, we should reach out to the local comic book shops about doing personal appearances, see if any of them would be interested in an official endorsement from San Francis­co’s most beloved superheroines. Endorsements represent a significant portion of our income, and given that San Francisco doesn’t require much superheroing right now . . .”   . . . this would be a fine way to ensure that we’re still earn­ing money, that we’re making ourselves useful in some way, and that we’re doing something other than sitting on our asses, eating endless bowls of cereal and chasing permanent unemployment and oh, god, I can’t take it anymore.   I. Just. Can’t.   That was the rest of what I’d started to say, unfurling in my head, punctuated by a hint of maniacal laughter. But the words died in my throat as I realized everyone was looking at me like I’d grown a second head.   “We’re totally fine on money for a while,” Evie said, giv­ing me an amused smile. “All those endorsement deals you’ve done over the years— and the managing of our in­vestments I’ve done over the years— have given us an ex­cellent nest egg. Just don’t go buying thousand-dollar boots by the truckful, and we should be okay.”   “Indeed,” Lucy chimed in. “Now is the time to relax, take a breath, and enjoy life.”   “ ’Cause you never know when another demon portal’s gonna open up and send the city back into supernatural chaos,” Bea said, stabbing her phone in the air for emphasis.   “But . . .” I frowned at my bowl of Grape-Nuts, biting back the rest of my retort.   But what if another portal never opens up?   What if no one needs a superhero anymore?   What if that’s the only thing I’m good at, the thing I’ve trained my whole life to be— all twenty-seven years of it— and suddenly I’m just . . . useless?   I couldn’t help but flash back to something I’d said to Evie during a heart-to-heart we’d had in the aftermath of world-saving.   If I’m not Aveda Jupiter, who am I? No one. Not really.   She, of course, had told me I’d always be someone to her.   But given that she was finally growing into her own super­heroine identity as a fire-wielding badass, given that no one in the entire city seemed to need Aveda Jupiter at the mo­ment, how could that be true?   I shoved down the panic rising in my chest and looked up from my bowl.   “I did put up a tweet or two that you guys were looking to do more personal appearances, Aveda,” Bea said ab­sently. She set aside her phone and tapped away on her laptop, pausing occasionally to leaf through a big sheaf of papers she’d brought with her to the breakfast table, mak­ing notations in sparkly green gel pen. “People love seeing Evie’s fire power in action. And, uh, your stuff, too.”   “Don’t you have enough keeping you busy?” Evie said to me. “What with organizing all your superheroine outfits into different closets, and adding a few hours a day to your already incredibly intense workouts and—”   “And even in this state of non-apocalypse, she finds a way to be an overachiever,” Lucy said, arching a playful brow.   Everyone laughed and I attempted to force another smile. It was a warm laugh, an affectionate laugh— a famil­ial laugh. Evie claimed our little crew was like a family, but I always felt a wall between me and everyone else, a wall that had originally been mostly of my own making since the team had been my staff, before Evie and I became su­perheroine partners. Even now, when that warm laugh was directed my way, I felt outside of it. Like I was watching a TV show about an intriguing alien species I could never hope to understand.   My gaze landed on the only other person at the table who wasn’t laughing: Scott. I didn’t know why he wasn’t laughing, since he usually loved nothing more than teasing, making a joke out of everything. Though lately he hadn’t been doing much of that with me.   Of course my gaze lingered, reminding me that even though I’d tried to deny it over the course of the fifteen years we’d known each other, he was ridiculously hot in a way that I still found distracting.   My gaze was kind of an asshole.   He didn’t meet my eyes, as he was concentrating very hard on the orange he was peeling. As usual, he looked gorgeous in the morning: mussed golden hair falling over his forehead, blue eyes hazy with sleep, tanned surfer’s bi­ceps contrasting perfectly with the rumpled white t-shirt he wore to bed.   Not that I actually knew what he wore to bed. I was just guessing.   He smelled good, too. Like fresh-cut grass and sunscreen and the ocean. I watched as he bit into an orange slice, the juice dribbling out of the side of his mouth. His tongue flicked out to lick it off and—   No. Nope. Stop staring. You’re about to look like a drool­ing moron. And that sort of behavior might be fine for An­nie Chang, the ordinary girl I’d left behind so many years ago, the girl with no superpowers, the girl who was more than capable of having her heart broken.   But it was definitely not fine for Aveda Jupiter.   I turned away from Scott and his stupid, sexy orange and lamented for the millionth time that it really wasn’t fair that he looked and smelled this good right after rolling out of bed, since I usually had to spend at least two hours con­ditioning, moisturizing, and twisting my body into just the right outfit in order to appear halfway presentable.   “Aw, you didn’t pick out the purple horseshoes for me— maybe I should reduce that to The Singular Goo after all,” Evie said, nudging Nate with her foot. She’d apparently moved on from teasing me and was picking through her second bowl of Lucky Charms.   “You’re a superheroine, more than capable,” he coun­tered, his mouth quirking into an amused smile. “Why not just burn them out?”   “I try to keep mundane power usage to a minimum,” Evie replied, fishing around for the purple marshmallow bits. They all tasted the same to me— pure sugar— but she claimed not to like the purple ones.   Nate watched her, still wearing that affectionate look. But I noticed something else lurked underneath, a flicker of feeling that seemed unsure.   “What’s all this, Bea?” Evie asked, gesturing to her sis­ter’s laptop and stack of papers. “Are you making spread­sheets at the breakfast table again?” She threw Nate— who was known for his love of cataloging data and had been mentoring Bea in various scientific research methods— a mock-disapproving look.   Yes, heaven forbid that anyone try to do anything resem­bling work during one of these leisurely breakfasts.   “I’ve been studying all civilian-submitted reports on su­pernatural activity that Rose’s Demon Unit has received over the years, trying to put them in some kind of order— and digitizing the shit out of them while doing so,” Bea said, her voice taking on what she probably imagined to be a professional cadence. “They really are a mess.”   “Mmm, data organization for fun,” Evie said, giving Nate another look. “You are a terrible influence.”   He gave her a small smile, but with that flicker of uncer­tainty again. He almost looked . . . nervous. Was something going on with them? Were three months of peaceful bliss wearing on him, too? Or was their peaceful bliss not as peaceful as I imagined?   So this was what passed for excitement now: cereal car chases and attempts to ferret out my best friend’s relation­ship issues.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Heroine Worship:"Mixing fun superhero shenanigans with great teamwork and a well-developed (and hot) romance, Heroine Worship is a worthy sequel to one of my favorite books from last year. I am so ready for book 3 now." —Kirkus Reviews"The Heroine Complex series continues to be one of the most fun and thoughtful takes on the superhero genre. By telling a story from Aveda Jupiter’s perspective — or rather, Annie Chang’s — Kuhn adds more layers of complexity, honesty and heart to this series." —RT Reviews (top pick)"Kuhn follows Heroine Complex with a thoughtful look into the often crowded and complex mind of superheroine Aveda Jupiter, aka Annie Chang, in this roller-coaster romantic urban fantasy." —Publishers Weekly"In Annie, Sarah Kuhn writes a reminder to women like us who feel too much, who do too much, who want so much, and who have no idea how to manage all of those things at once. She is richly drawn and explored, and given agency to be all that she is." —BookRiot"Annie’s struggles to merge her kick-ass Aveda persona with her everyday Annie Chang tendencies can be hilariously slapstick, while her emotional growth provides its own tearjerker moments." —Library Journal"Sarah Kuhn balances the (often) light and (frequently) funny superhero action tone with two very believable, complicated main characters.... Kuhn puts us inside Aveda’s head to show us what it feels like to be the hero that everyone loves, but a person who’s hard to like. There are very few true jerks in Kuhn’s big-hearted (if snarky) universe." —B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog"In short, here’s what I love about this series: healthy relationships, dang good romance, powerful female friendships, leading ladies of color who are aware of the power of this own image, incredible honesty, downright perfect writing about what it is to be human, and the most dynamic duo since… ever." —Readcommendations"Sarah Kuhn’s San Francisco is a city worth visiting as many times she cares to treat us to superheroine adventures. Her voice is not only fresh, witty and vibrant; it’s very necessary." —Writers After Dark