I’m trying not to feel guilty for reading something that isn’t from my massive (and ever-growing) pile of advance copies, but considering how much I ADORE The House in the Cerulean Sea, I wanted to give Klune’s young adult book a try.
In The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune, Nick Bell is, for the most part, an average teenager. He has a tight-knit friend group, though recently his best friend Seth has been drifting away. Nick’s new ADHD pills are a bit of a nuisance to adjust to as well. Oh, and his fanfiction about the city’s real life superhero, Shadow Star, is the most popular fic in the fandom. Nick doesn’t really expect anything major to change in his life, until a chance encounter with Shadow Star turns everything on its head. Now, Nick doesn’t just want to admire the Extraordinaries—he wants to become one of them.
To be honest, Nick and I didn’t get off on the right foot. The first couple of chapters, his attitude really annoyed me. The way he spoke of Shadow Star (think Superman but with the ability to manipulate/weaponize shadows) was bothersome, like he felt entitled to the hero’s affection even though he doesn’t know him. Unfortunately, this made me think of Hal from the film Megamind (an underrated gem, if you ask me). So it took me a while to warm up to Nick, though my impression of him did improve. By the end, he still irritated me sometimes, but I also found myself amused and even sometimes moved by his choices and words. So, a mixed bag all in all.
The other characters were pretty fun. I liked Jazz and Gibby—seriously, give me witty banter and I’m instantly thrilled. Owen was interesting; he could have been such a typical obnoxious and slightly creepy teenage boy, but Klune has a more nuanced approach that worked pretty well. Seth was the best one of the friend group, though, being so sweet and earnest, with a more somber side to him. I have added him to my long list of “fictional characters I have adopted, whether they need my protection or not.”
The best character, however, wasn’t Seth, but Nick’s father Aaron. And, for me, Aaron and Nick’s relationship is the best part of this book. It’s a complicated and imperfect bond they have, as they struggle to continue with their lives after the loss of Nick’s mother. The way they both make mistakes but constantly turn back to each other for support and affection is so lovely. I’m finding out that Klune has a knack for writing tender, moving stories about the connection between parents and children, and I’m here for it! (This is also what helped my opinion of Nick improve, too.)
Characters aside, the plot is a little predictable, but that might be because I’ve seen Megamind so many times, as well as watched several Marvel movies. Still, being familiar with the genre doesn’t make this a boring read—half the fun was that while I may have known what was going to happen, I wanted to see how Nick would react to it. Because WOW, I have never met a more oblivious character than Nicholas “notices absolutely nothing ever” Bell.
I liked the escalation of tension, the action scenes, and final climax. I may have predicted some plot points, but others I didn’t expect. And the evolution of Nick’s view on the events in his city, and the role superheroes have in his world was perfectly paced and well executed.
In the end, The Extraordinaries was a silly, clever story about an average boy who gets in over his head in the world of superheroes. The protagonist may have made me want to tear my hair out sometimes, but there’s still a lot of heart and humor in this book. The supporting cast is excellent, the dialogue is often really funny, and the love story is cute. I had a pretty good time, and I’m intrigued enough to want to read the second book when it comes out this summer.
Overall rating: 8.5/10