How to describe this series? It’s like Sky High meets The Incredibles meets X-Men. But better and epic and awesome!
In this universe, there are normal people, Powereds, and Supers. Normal people are just that, normal. Supers have super powers, like telepathy and the ability to turn into solid steel and such. Powereds are a bit different. They have super powers, but they can’t control them. You could imagine how well that would go over in society. Our story begins with five students who are classified as Powereds. But not for long. There is a new secret experimental program that can turn Powereds into Supers. These five exceptional individuals are given the chance to control their powers and lead a ‘normal’ life as Supers. They are enrolled in Lander University in the Hero Certification Program, in order to fulfill their new potential to be Super Heroes.
Our cast of characters are as follows:
Vince – a vagabond with the power to absorb and redistribute energy, such as draining a lighter and having the flame appear from his hand
Nick – a sunglasses-wearing smartass with the power to control luck, be it his or someone else’s
Herschel – a pudgy nerd with the power to turn into his alter ego, Roy, who is everything Herschel is not
Alice – the daughter of a rich and powerful Super with the power of flight
Mary – a strange young lady with the extremely strong power of telepathy and telekinesis
We also have their handlers Mr. Transport, an adult with the power of transporting himself and others instantaneously, and his partner Mr. Numbers, who can calculate the odds of any situation (maybe? We’re never quite sure about him). (Mr. Transport is my favorite, and I think he’s adorable.)
One of the big differences between this and Sky High (and there are a lot of surface similarities) is that this is college, and the students are technically adults. Yes, they have their powers and their secrets, but they are also learning and growing as people. They have relationships and make friends, and groan over group projects and play beer pong like any other college student. (There is one aspect that seems to not quite work in my opinion, though. The freshman class is small – at one point, it is 31 students. In a class that small, everyone would know each other. And the festivities the night before finals would be kind of lame with only 31 people. But again, that might just be me.)
One of the questions I have as the story progresses is ‘what happens to Supers who don’t make it through the Hero Certification Program?’ Are there Supers just hanging around with powers, living normal lives? Are they allowed to use their powers, or are they supposed to refrain from using them? As we get further in the book, we learn that not everyone loves the Supers. Some people see them as freaks, or burdens on society. And not all Supers become heroes. Some become (dun dun DUN) villains! (Note – we learn more about other, non-hero supers in the other books, especially in Corpies, a spin-off from this series.)
Due to the length of the book, Hayes can take the time to delve into the psyche and backstory of the characters. I think the way he wrote it helped with that. He tried to publish one chapter online every Tuesday and Thursday for who knows how long. Yes, sometimes the story can get a little gangly, but that’s fine! The ebook version is 644 pages, and the audiobook is over 26 hours! And all the props to the narrator, Kyle McCarley. He makes this an absolutely entrancing experience with his voices and nuances. I wonder what his reaction was to the length of the story and its sequels, which are only getting longer.
There were legit moments that I shouted “Oh, snap!” as I listened to the story in my car. There are gems that pop up, especially in the last section of the book, that are glorious. Things are revealed that can only lead to trouble and drama in future books. And I can’t wait to jump right into Year 2!