I will say–and this is a big thing–that there’s some jarring tonal issues with our current day given that Nick’s father is a cop. The cops in this story are in the vein of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, full stop, but there’s still something shaky about a book in which the police show up often and are extra super good. This book will definitely loose readers as a result of this, and I think that’s fine. It made me vaguely uncomfortable throughout, but in this way that made me feel like Nova City is very disconnected from our world, and meant to not be in it or of it.
Klune has addressed this on his blog, which is a reason why I’m okay with giving this author some space to process and do better: http://www.tjklunebooks.com/new-blog/2020/7/29/a-message-about-the-extraordinaries and then http://www.tjklunebooks.com/new-blog/2020/8/24/canceling-my-own-book-or-knowing-when-to-do-the-right-thing. I think Naomi Novik also did poorly in A Deadly Education, and I think that she’s been given a chance to show that she can be better and learn from her mistakes. That’s what so-called “accountability” is all about, giving people a chance (but not endless chances).
If this book is not for you because of the fact that cops are both main and supporting characters, I hope this helps you avoid a book that would have caused you harm.
What an excellent opening blurb: Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra.
This is a fricking charming book. I dare you to read this and not smile goofily at the antics of Nick, Gibby, Jazz, and Seth as they struggle with being high schoolers in the thin NYC pastiche of Nova City. If you’ve read Klune’s other book, The House in the Cerulean Sea, this book is exactly like that one and yet nothing like it.
Now, what does such a useless sentence mean?
I mean that in the world of Klune, the fundamental goodness of humanity and decency of human beings is always at the forefront. People are trying to be the best they can be, but it’s the best version of themselves, not some sort of cookie cutter best that would satisfy the nosy Jonses. The worst conflicts come when characters are made to feel like they, as they are, are not enough.
You are enough, Klune wants to tell his readers, just the way you are, trying your best every day. It’s a very Mr. Rodgers like sentiment, now that I think of it. That’s what both of these books have in common–the sense that you’re in Mr. Klune’s Neighborhood, where people might make mistakes but we’re always there to figure out what they are and why they happened and how we can be better next time.
So that aside, let’s get to why I loved THIS book so much. Nick is an ADHD superfan of a series of real-life superheros who pop up with no real predictability. Two have made Nova City their home–the dashing Shadow Star and his arch-nemesis Pyro Storm. Nick, all of 16, is convinced that he and Shadow Star will meet and eventually ride off into the sunset with two kids and a dog (and sex, which he’s sure he wants to do) (although maybe not after Dad demonstrated with a banana and lube).
These are all teenagers, and of course I was eye-roll-ing the entire time about how they go through lives as if they aren’t, you know, underage. For once, though, the plot really wouldn’t have worked if they’re all aged up (my usual trick, where I mentally overwrite ever instance of high school with the corresponding college experience so that it’s a little less weird, doesn’t work here). Nick’s relationship with his father is one of multiple(!) emotional pillars at the core of a story that also involves superheros with capes.
Nick’s ADHD is also beautifully captured, in breathless monologues that segue from the mating habits of box turtles to drag queen names to whatever else one can find while ping ponging through life. His friends are the best. Seth is the best. His summer dalliance with resident bi bad boy Owen isn’t ever played for the sort of Grease-esque cringe that it could be. Yes, Nick spent a summer making out with one of the most popular boys in school. Yes, he is over it now. No, he wasn’t looking at Owen’s shapely butt. No, he wasn’t looking at Seth’s shapely neck. Wait, what?
Just read this book, I can’t really do it super justice in this review but it’s cute and I’m very much looking forward to the next installment later this year 😀