The Extraordinaries features Nick Bell, the best fanfic writer about a new cadre of superheroes. These superheroes are not from DC or Marvel universes, they are real. People with extraordinary abilities like Nick’s favorite Shadow Star who can control shadows and make them tangible. Like any superhero, he has a nemesis whose name is Pyro Storm. They are called Extraordinaries. Nick is clearly crushing hard on Shadow Star.
Nick is extraordinary, too, as he has ADHD, for which he takes some meds. He also has anxiety issues since his mother died and his father is a cop. His mind is racing with ideas and his mouth is not far behind. High school could be hell for a neurodiverse gay kid like Nick but he has good friends who stand by him, Seth, Jazz, and Gibby. Then there is Owen. Nick had a short-term relationship with Owen and he keeps coming around. Does he still like Nick? Why doesn’t Seth like Shadow Star and the Extraordinaries? These questions vex him, but he’s focused on more important things like figuring out how he can become an Extraordinary.
The Extraordinaries was very disappointing, but I am a few decades past the target audience. I enjoy YA fiction, though, and this is the first time I felt “too old” to enjoy it, though I am not certain it is my age alone that gives me trouble. I think even a young person might get tired of being hit upside the head with foreshadowing in nearly every conversation Nick has with his friends. From the outset, one of the main plot “secrets” is so obvious that I was rolling my eyes along with Jazz and Gibby at Nick’s extraordinary ability to not recognize his own feelings.
Klune put a lot of effort into making Nick a complex and interesting young man that the other characters get short shrift. It is not so much that there is no effort to add complexity to them, but that they are made complex is very stereotypical ways. Owen is the bad guy whose rich, industrialist father cares more about money than him. Seth is the good guy who is sometimes tired of the burden of being good. Jazz and Gibby are the witty, feisty lesbians who are tough in a pinch. Nick’s dad is the struggling father burdened by grief and love for his son. They come pre-assembled.
However, I think a younger audience will be more forgiving and enjoy the humor. After all, while talking a mile-a-minute, Nick is a regular gaffe machine. He is often unintentionally hilarious. You see why his friends love him.
The Extraordinaries will be released July 14th. I received an ARC from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.