The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune. New York : Tor Teen, 2020. 399 pp.
Nick is an ordinary teen – his only superpower is his raging ADHD, which makes him impulsive and lacking in common sense sometimes – but that’s okay. He has three really great friends who accept him for who he is (and an ex-boyfriend that keeps hanging around, annoying and attracting him equally). He has a huge crush on Shadow Star, an Extraordinary in Nova City, and fuels his obsession by writing fanfiction about him and his archnemesis, Pyro Storm.
But then Nick decides he needs to become an Extraordinary, and comes up with some very implausible ways to become a superhero. Where can he be exposed to radiation? Will polluted river water be toxic enough to give him superpowers? Nick wants to be the equal of Shadow Star (because of course Shadow Star will fall in love with him if he is a superhero, too, right?), but he also wants to keep his father, who is a police officer, and everyone else in Nova City safe. Nick lost his mother in a senseless accident a few years ago, and he couldn’t handle losing his father, too. None of his friends seem especially excited about his plans, except his ex-boyfriend Owen, who is being oddly helpful in his quest. His best friend Seth is acting weird and disappearing frequently, and Nick can’t figure out why Seth isn’t there when he needs him.
The Extraordinaries is charming in its depiction of queer love (Nick is gay, and his female best friends Gibby and Jazz are in love) and is full of typical teenage angst and cluelessness. The romantic scenes stay at a PG level, but the relationships described are strong and authentic. The book deals with the concepts of loss, both with the death of Nick’s mother and the imminent graduation of one of his friends. Teens will identify with the pressures of school and how monumental decisions feel when you are finishing high school and don’t know what you’re going to do without your best friends at your side.
The book also is a superhero story (the last third of the book is full of action and suspense) with a big twist at the end. You will laugh at how clueless Nick is about a lot of things, and the ending will bring about more than one gasp as the battle between Shadow Star and Pyro Storm involves Nick and the people he loves. Klune has written a wonderful book that begs for a sequel.
Mary Beth Adams is the Outreach Coordinator at the Alamance County Public Libraries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.