Rep: a really great portrayal of ADHD, which is neither glamorized nor stigmatized
Spoilers for the first book in the series, .
Unfortunately, while I eagerly awaited this book and rushed it to the top of my TBR list, this book did not quite reach the heights of the first. It felt a bit scattered and lacked the narrative cohesion and tension that propelled me through the first book. Not that I didn’t finish this book quickly–I did–but it’s not one a series that I feel particularly compelled to continue.
To get the big part out of the way first: whether it was always planned (I don’t quite think so) or in response to criticism (I think so, not an invalidating reason to me), Klune spends a decent amount of time in this book wrestling with what it means that our main character, Nick, has a cop for a father in a world that might have superheroes but still has racism. The relationship between Nick and his dad is in many ways the heart of the book, even though Nick’s relationship with Seth might occupy more of his constantly churning brain. Nick’s father is openly emotional and fully supportive of all of his son, without ever trying to get him to be something different. Nick’s gay? Excellent, here is a primer on how to make dental dams out of common household items.
But Nick’s father is also a cop, and a lot of the supportive adult people in Nick’s life are cops or spouses of cops. And Nick’s father was demoted for assaulting a suspect in custody. The reasons why are brought up, but it doesn’t really matter. As Nick’s Black female friend Gibby explains to him once, while Nick’s dad has never scared her as Nick’s dad, she has always wrestled with him as a cop. And throughout the book, Nick wrestles with what it means to critically view a parent, his blind spots when it comes to his privilege, and what values he wants to live by.
But here’s the issue–I’ve written like a ton of words about one facet of this book and it’s, honestly, not even the largest plot point therein. There’s just too much going on in this second installment, and some of it is just needlessly prolonged for an audience that is definitely smarter than Klune seems to think.
For example, we already sort of guessed that Nick was also an Extraordinary when, after falling off of a bridge in the climactic scene of the prior book, he didn’t die but instead sort of floated down. And then it was confirmed by the end credits scene, where his father talks to Simon Burke about the medicine which Nick takes which suppresses his powers. Aka there’s no tension…but the amount of time it takes for that plot point to be revealed is just too much. Light bulbs keep fizzing out when Nick is upset? Things randomly crack when he’s stressed? I wonder I wOnDeR.
I also feel like I’m maybe too jaded to really take Team PyroStorm’s side against the adults in their lives. They insist they’re all mature enough to handle the responsibility that’s been thrown on them because they have been handling it. But they’re 16-17-18! I completely agree with Nick’s father and Seth’s aunt and uncle…they might feel like you’re an adult at that age, but they’re not.