Nick Bell is far from an ordinary teen. He experiences attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is required to take daily medication. Two years ago, his mother was killed in a bank robbery, leaving him and his father to reconstruct their lives together. He met his best friend, Seth Gray, when they were six years old. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Nick is a superstar in the world of Extraordinaries fan fiction. He is one of the most popular writers of stories relating to the few individuals that have super-powers known as Extraordinaries and his 250K word, and 60+ chapter, online story about Shadow Star, Nova City’s most powerful hero, has almost 600 readers. But Nick wants more. He wants to BE an Extraordinary. And he wants to meet Shadow Star, because he knows when they meet they will fall in love. It’s typical teenage logic applied to an impossible situation. But Nick knows he is right and he’s willing to do almost anything to make his dream a reality.
In The Extraordinaries TJ Klune illustrates teenage angst, obsession and cluelessness with humorous results. Nick’s obsession with finding a way to give himself superpowers provides Klune, who must be a superhero fan, to skewer several comic book tropes (including Spider-Man’s origin and the overuse of radiation of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial origins resulting in unusual abilities). Nick’s fixation on Shadow Star as the potential object of his affections blinds him to more realistic, and rewarding, nearby potentials. His ADHD causes him to say things even most teens, who are generally learning how to moderate their responses well, would never utter. The result is dialogue that is memorable and amusing.
Where Klune really shines are the relationships portrayed in the book. Nick and his father are both still recovering from the loss of Nick’s mother. They are each attempting to deal with their own grief while simultaneously being respectful of the other. They clash over things that are typical between a parent and a teenage child, while Nick’s father is also very accepting of his child being gay. It is an enviable, healthy relationship where there are struggles, but in the end each knows the other loves them deeply.
The other main relationship in the book is the one between Nick and his best friend Seth. Having known each other since they were small children, the two have literally grown up together and each has helped the other to cope with tremendous loss. They are devoted to each other in a way that can only come from such a long period of time coupled with shared experiences. That they will end up together is clear from early in the novel, but Klune makes the journey equally frustrating and enjoyable as readers will repeatedly wonder when Nick will be able to clearly see that what he’s seeking is literally sitting or standing right next to him.
The Extraordinaries is humorous, romantic, heart-warming and an absolutely super superhero novel!