CONTENT WARNING: Harley Quinn: Reckoning depicts sexism, emotional abuse and sexual assault.
Is there such a thing as an antihero’s journey in literature? If there is, Harley Quinn is someone who takes it full throttle. Harley Quinn: Reckoning is the newest entry in the DC Icons line and the first of the books to be written by Rachael Allen. The YA novel explores the teenage years of the unconventional heroine as she journeys from high school graduate to young adult. And I’m absolutely along for the ride.
In Harley Quinn: Reckoning, the first book in a new trilogy, we find Harleen filling her gap year between high school and college with a special STEM internship at Gotham University. But just as it seems like her dreams are in reach, her life takes a turn in a daring direction she never imagined.
Want to know more? Read on for a breakdown of the book!
Jen Bartel. Harley Quinn. What else do I need to say? When Jen Bartel crafts a cover, it’s hard to look away from it. Bright, dazzling artwork fills the book’s sole illustration with pops of color from the end of Harley’s pigtails to the vibrant geometric designs in the background. Harley’s wry smirk captures the wit and spirit of the future villain-turned-antihero perfectly.
Image from Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass (Art by Steve Pugh)
Tell Me a Story:
Harleen Quinzel is giving everything she’s got for the chance of a lifetime: a full ride to Gotham U. To score a scholarship, she’ll need to make a big impression in her internship in the psych lab. But the rampant sexism in her department and a frat party gone very wrong quickly disillusion the young scientist.
Harleen is ready to dispense justice—with a dash of revenge—and she’s surprised to find kindred spirits on the sprawling campus. Together, they form a girl gang known as the Reckoning and with her friends, Harley deploys a series of attention-grabbing pranks to expose some of the worst offenders at the university. But when a member of the Reckoning is murdered, Harleen is in danger of losing everything she’s been fighting for.
Image from Harley Quinn #1 (Art by Amanda Conner and Alex Sinclair)
Reckoning speaks so effortlessly with Harley’s voice that you can practically hear her trademark “Mr. J” as you read. The fast-paced prose, sprinkled with all-caps shouts of glee, is just as whip-smart as Harleen herself. Along with her hyperactive interactions with her friends, you’ll find quiet moments of deep self-reflection and poetic observations. For instance, Harleen describes a delicious first kiss as a taste of “peppermint hot chocolate and hope,” a sentence to be savored.
As for the rest of the cast of characters, the sexist statements uttered by the staff and students at Gotham U might sound far too ridiculous to be realistic. But before you think “no one says things like that anymore,” you should know that the author herself has a background in science and academia, and she drew from real life when crafting their comments.
Image from Harleen #1 (Art by Stjepan Sejic)
Voted Most Likely:
Ah, high school superlatives, those coveted awards handed for standing out among your classmates—hopefully in a good way. What recognition would Harleen’s Gotham High class give her? Well, if you assume it would be a landslide vote for “Class Clown,” then you don’t know Harleen Quinzel.
Harleen absolutely deserves the title “Most Likely to Succeed.” From her natural brilliance to her hard work studying, babysitting and even teaching gymnastics to make ends meet, Harleen is determined to do whatever it takes to reach her goals. She has my vote.
And that leads me to the one question I’d love to ask Harley Quinn…
Image from Harley Quinn #1 (Art by Bill Sienkiewicz)
What Would You Most Like to Ask?
Harley Quinn, how do you do it all?
I didn’t even mention the competing in gymnastics meets, handling home life with her alcoholic dad or flirting with the girl she has a big crush on. Obviously, Harleen has a lot to deal with. Yet she handles it all with a confident smile and no small amount of compassion for others.
And Reckoning, how do you do it all, too? Action. Romance. Mystery. Intrigue. DC Comics cameos. And this is just the first book in the trilogy!
Image from Harley Quinn #24 (Art by Amanda Conner and Alex Sinclair)
Perfect Food Pairing:
Cupcakes. All the cupcakes. Not only do Harley and her friends love to celebrate their Reckoning victories with a good cupcake, the sugary sweet treats go well with just about any book. What I’m saying is, you deserve a cupcake right now. Harley Quinn would approve.
Harley Quinn: Reckoning by Rachael Allen is now available in bookstores and libraries in print and as an e-book and audiobook.
Kelly Knox swoons over Superman and obsesses over every story told about the first meeting of the World’s Finest. When she’s not reading comics, she’s waiting impatiently for the next books by Tracy Deonn and Kalynn Bayron. Find her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.
Not sure what you just read? Click here for the skinny on our Book Breakdowns.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Kelly Knox and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.