Lightning Girl, and its sequel, Lightning Girl: Superhero Squad, by Alesha Dixon

Alesha Dixon, a celebrity in the UK, has brought a new middle grade superhero to town--Lightning Girl!  (whose adventures continue in Superhero Squad).  Aurora is an ordinary kid, perhaps a bit more klutzy than most 10-year-olds, but still within the parameters of "normal." Until she looses her temper when she sees her little sister being bullied, and beams of light start flying out of hands. She tries to write it off to herself as just part of growing up, but a little later, in her own back yard brooding at being laughed at at school for her failure as gymnast, the same thing happens.  And this time, her parents know about it.

And Aurora's life is up-ended.  Turns out, her mom's a superhero, with the same power, using it to foil bad guys around the world.  Not just that, but she comes from a long line of superheroes, and apparently, once she gets her own powers under control, she'll be one of them.

But life is a bit more complicated than that.  Her aunt Lucinda, for instance, shows up with her ostrich companion...Lucinda has the family knack, and an extra gift of her own, and instead of fighting crime, she's committing it.  But when Aurora gets wind of a plot to steal precious gems from the major exhibit her father's curating, she knows she wants to be one of the good guys.

Fortuantly, she doesn't have to foil the theft by herself; other kids at school, including some who never gave her the time of day before, have banded around her, making themselves into her support staff.   From fashion help, that bolsters her confidence, to help with logistics and detective work, the kids save the day, and Aurora is on her path toward super-heroism.

The second book sees Aurora and her squad involved in another plot that needs foiling.  The world was watching when Aurora used her lightning gifts to foil the robbery,and now she's besieged by the media.  After a break at her grandmother's house in the south of England, she's off to a conference of superheros, exited to belong to the group, and nervous about it too.  Turns out there's a lot to be nervous about--a plot is underway to undermine the society.  The grown-ups are pretty clueless about what's going on, and so it ends up being Aurora, with the help of her squad, who show up just in time, to save the day.

These are fun, fast reads, with a bi-racial, big-haired heroine who is still very much a kid.  Sure she has powers, but she doesn't have a lot of confidence in herself.  Although not everyone has problems controlling their lightning powers, many of us can relate to her worries about her parents' marriage (they separate in the first book), and though not all of us have criminal aunts with flamboyant ostrich sidekicks undermining our parents, we all have to committee, or not, to our family's values and traditions. And the friend drama that's so much a part of the middle school experience is here too, with Aurora having to accept that girls who didn't have time for her before will now be on her side, not just because she's a superhero, although that was the catalyst, but because they like being her friend.

What I liked best though was the matrilineal line of black superheros, and the revelations about Aurora's grandmother in the second book!  If you are looking for a tech savvy, lightning-wielding, smart as all get out granny, look no further.

In short, these should go down very easily indeed for younger middle school readers.  Two more books in the series are out in the UK, for those who can't wait for more.

disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher.

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