Title: Harley Quinn: Reckoning
Series: DC Icons Series: Book One
Author: Rachel Allen
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Length: 390 Pages
Category: YA/Teen Fiction
Rating: 3.5 Stars
At a Glance: Reckoning is all about the Girl Power. Rachel Allen unapologetically instills this as the foundation of her plot, and embracing that is a significant influence on the reader’s alliance with Harleen, Bernice, and the women who make up the Reckoning.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: When Harleen Quinzel scores an internship in a psych lab at Gotham University, she’s more than ecstatic; she’s desperate to make a Big Scientific Discovery that will land her a full-ride college scholarship and get her away from her abusive father. But when Harleen witnesses the way women are treated across STEM departments–and experiences harassment herself–she decides that revenge and justice are more important than her own dreams.
Harleen finds her place in an intoxicating vigilante girl gang called the Reckoning, who creates chaos to inspire change. And when Harleen falls for another girl in the gang, it finally seems like she’s found her true passions. But what starts off as pranks and mischief quickly turns deadly as one of the gang members is found murdered–and a terrifying conspiracy is uncovered that puts the life Harleen has worked so hard for at stake. Will she choose her future–or will she choose revenge?
Review: “Girl gang versus college. Smashing patriarchy versus safety. Stability. Keeping myself out of an orange jumpsuit.”
Harleen Quinzel is a teenager in her gap year with dreams and aspirations and not many resources but her scary-impressive genius. She’s trying to break into STEM, though, which is a notoriously male-dominated concentration and not easy for women to gain recognition in much less infiltrate. Her conflict exists between protecting her scholarship goals to pay for her education and her disgust for the misogyny she and her fellow women students are up against. Not to mention a father who is an abusive drunk. Harleen teeters on the edge of chaos and compliance. Does she maintain the status quo or have some fun and shake up the patriarchy? If you’re familiar with this character, you’ll know the ultimate answer to that question, but she’s not quite there yet. Reckoning is her backstory, the buildup to the Harley Quinn fans know and love.
The story is part teenage angst and part social commentary mixed with some of the anarchy I expected from the woman who was first a villain, then an antihero, and is now canonically a hero in the DC -verse. She’s falling in love with Bernice, a fellow STEM student and member of the girl gang they’ve dubbed the Reckoning. Their goal is straightforward: to expose and torment chauvinists and dudes who don’t know the definition of consent. Rachel Allen unapologetically instills this as the foundation of her plot, and embracing that is a significant influence on the reader’s alliance with Harleen, Bernice, and the other women who make up the Reckoning. I found myself longing for more of action and chaos and less of the repetition of the catalysts for the mischief. It would have increased the tempo of the story exponentially to watch Harleen’s conflict play out against more scenes of vandalism and mayhem than reiteration of her motivation, but that’s not to say this story didn’t resonate.
Reckoning is all about the Girl Power. As a result, there are no redeeming male characters (one, perhaps, but he’s given a small role), so take that into consideration. Based upon the Author’s Note, Allen is writing from a place of knowledge and experience within the field of interest, so it tracks that she’s merely writing what she knows and doing it through a character who will only become more interesting now that she has access to Arkham Asylum and all those who inhabit it.
You can buy Harley Quinn: Reckoning here: