The Cute Mutants series by SJ Whitby has become one of my favorite series of all time. From the main three books that are currently out, to the fluffy spin-offs we got at Christmas time, SJ has created a world I can disappear in.
These books start with Dylan realizing they can talk to inanimate objects, and that after years of fantasizing about becoming a mutant like the x-men, it’s happening.
“…this is me, Dylan Taylor, human incarnation of the burning dumpster gif, and this is my life. Deal or gtfo. At least it can’t get any worse, right?”
The humor and the references in the first book hook you and make you assume you’re starting safely with a light-hearted set of books. As the series continues, things get darker but you’re already too attached to everyone to quit. The way Dylan gently learns how to have friends felt familiar, and the way the Cute Mutants are regularly assisting one another with their insecurities was fantastic to read.
“She smiles at me and I am far beyond smitten. I am destroyed and terrified.”
Dylan’s relationships with others is something that I resonated with highly. It feels tricky to become friends with others, to be open and vulnerable with them. Characters like Alyse drag you into their friendship anyway and make you recognize that you are loved, and valued, and important. There is also the insecurity that Dylan feels in their own romantic relationship, and how this affects the actions that they take. Dylan is constantly needing reassurance that just because they disagree with their partner, that it doesn’t mean things are ending or that their partner hates them. This is written in such a way that it feels tangible and relatable. These are still teenagers who, at the end of the day, have been tasked with saving the world.
“Angry girls have to stick together.”
While these books sit at around the 400-page mark, I couldn’t put them down. Each one I finished in about a day, desperate to know what happened next. My heart sat in my throat, waiting to find out what happened to these characters I had fallen in love with. And when our first character death happened, my heart broke. I rarely feel emotionally attached to fictional characters in this way, and so when it happened I had to put the book down and breathe. You get connected to the inanimate, now-animate, objects that Dylan works with, and want the best for them. It’s hard to tell someone who is asking you about a book you’re reading that a talking sword is what’s making you laugh.
“I see your heart,” Onimaru says. “It is the heart of a hero and a warrior.”
SJ approaches conversations around sexual identity and gender identity in a way that feels close to home. In book three, there is a turn of events that focuses on religious trauma for queer identities, and as someone who has some experience with this, it made me incredibly emotional. I felt seen, which is not something I say often about books. I didn’t expect to find myself a home within characters in books like these, and yet I did.
“There are always rules,” she says. “Sometimes you need to cut your way through them to find a place you can live among them.”
I am endlessly grateful to SJ and their words. These are the books I wish I had as a teen. It makes identity conversations feel both normal and something you can take not-so-seriously if you want to. There are some characters who know exactly who they are and feel very comfortable with that, and others who feel insecure and ready to burst at any moment when thinking about it. This covers a huge spectrum of emotions that people can have when figuring themselves out, and I loved the representation in all of it. We have trans characters, and bisexual characters, and asexual characters, nonbinary parents, and genderfluid kids. It all was written in such a way that didn’t feel like that was the point of the book, but instead just was something that was a normal part of the growing up these kids are going through. Which it is, and making it normal is helpful.
I love these books, and if you love super queeroes, I think you’ll love them too.
“We want peace,” I tell them. “But we’re not scared of war.”