*A heads up for spoilers here, I was unable to give my opinion fully without them.*
I have been waiting for an opportunity to read this book for a while, ever since I first saw it. I really liked the cover, and the story sounded amusing and interesting; a relevant idea to all the super heroes in the media. As it turns put, unfortunately, the cover might be the best part. It was relatively quick to read, which I am thankful for. It seems that I am the only one that didn’t go with an audiobook this time, and I wonder how that may have effected my feelings for the book; considering I did not have to hear a narrator awkwardly trying to voice a female character.
I expected romance; it’s a YA novel. But I also have standards, and if one of your main characters is going to be unpleasant in regards to this, please also include proper character Growth. Michael’s possessiveness and jealousy over Henna could have possibly be a little less annoying if he actually had the chance to develop at some point, as opposed to him technically getting a slap on the wrist but then rewarded. I know that the book is set over just 4 weeks or so, but that doesn’t mean Michael couldn’t have actually grown up a bit. Henna does give appear to give him a good knockdown when she says something like “you are way too possessive for someone who doesn’t even date me”; but then gives in?
Instead of getting the opportunity for character growth, Henna’s rejection of him seems superficial since they still have sex. She rejects him in terms of a romantic relationship but he still gets a reward. Considering that he seems to be completely accepting of this, was he only in lust with her? In itself, them hooking up without being in a relationship is not wrong; however in the context that Michael could have had the opportunity to start growing, it tastes sour.
I was originally impressed by the seemingly diverse cast, but as Sugar Cube pointed out to me, it could come dangerously close to a sort of forced diversity. There was also a lack of context for some of the character’s diverseness, which I address lower in this book review. Mental illness and addiction was also liberally used, but perhaps too liberally? I was thrown off by Michael saying he had anxiety, but the anxiety having the appearance of an obsessive disorder. Near the end of the book, it is actually named as an obsessive disorder, so why call it anxiety before?? Anxiety and obsessive disorders may come hand in hand, and one developing from the other, but there was no reason to avoid naming his disorder earlier. He used to struggle with it, and has started to now. It would have helped with the fleshing out of characters a little (Although saying that makes me think that characters should be more fleshed out then just having a mental illness for a personality). I was also unclear about Michael’s father’s struggle with alcohol. Were we supposed to sympathize with him at all? I never found myself doing so. I have mixed feelings about Jared offering to heal Michael of his obsessive disorder. My only positive feeling is that it didn’t actually happen. Healing mental illness with magic is a trope, and certainly one to be avoided.
I thought it was an interesting style choice to have the titles long, and yet that’s where you found the indie kids. In this sense, it’s the normal kids who are at the forefront, and the special ones are at the edges. The indie kids mostly show up when they effect the lives of the normal ones, as read in the chapters, and the regular kids have mostly no idea what is going on. The reader does, as the context is all in the chapter titles. I thought it was a clever style choice, however the regular kids were not really strong enough, didn’t seem to have full characters or lives to really carry the story. The fact that he made normal people the center of the story is fine. But that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be strong characters. If all fantasy parts of the story were stripped away, the plot and characters would be pretty uninteresting. In fact it could be said that the diversity, and the mental illnesses were simply added to make the characters more interesting, as plot devices. This is unfortunate. You should be able to write interesting enough characters without having to use such things.
Although he focused on the normals, it felt as if the book was too focused on them, with a microscope so that you only saw their lives without any of the surrounding environments. Again, I understand that there is only 4 weeks left of school, but there was little mention of school at all really. No clubs, no classes, nothing that would have added a little more depth to the characters and the book. How large is their school? Were they part of any clubs? Was there a small number of Finnish kids for some reason, and what was that reason? I also didn’t really get a good sense of where they were living. How large is their town? Were there any more children of missionaries there? I know Jared was a football player, that’s about it. There seems to be a vacuum around the characters, when, as supposed normal people, there really shouldn’t be.
The writer may have been trying to be relevant to the young persons reading his book. I assumed at some point that the Indies were supposed to be hipsters, although his tone takes mostly the mocking view of them that much of the media uses. Calling them indie kids was perhaps a reference to hipsters liking indie music? It is not clear to me.
The idea was was certainly intriguing, but the execution sadly needs some work.