Hi there! Today I’m sharing the love for a YA LGBTQ romance that’s out today from a long-time fave author, TJ Klune. I’ve mostly reviewed Klune’s paranormal Green Creek series (WOLFSONG, RAVENSONG, and HEARTSONG) on Joyfully Jay, but THE EXTRAORDINARIES I got for myself. I fell hard for BEAR, OTTER, AND THE KID years ago, and I pick up Klune’s books whenever I can, now.
Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?
After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).
Nick Bell is a 16 year old out-gay boy who has a fierce group of queer friends. There’s Seth, who is likely gay but never dated anyone. He’s Nick’s oldest and dearest friend–Nick expects to spend a lifetime of friendship with Seth. Then, there’s Gibby, a take no crap baby butch black girl in her senior year. Gibby is in a committed relationship with Jazz, head cheerleader of their high school. And, Nick is sort-of friends with Owen, his rich and popular ex who relishes needling Seth.
Nick’s world is a little richer by virtue of true superheroes, dubbed “the Extraordinaries,” who save people with their superpowers. Nova City, where Nick lives, is home to Shadow Star, a superhero that can pull shadows to do his bidding, as well as his arch nemesis, Pyro Storm, who uses fire to wreak havoc. Nick is unabashedly crushing on Shadow Star, and has written literally hundreds of thousands of words in fanfic celebration of a possible love between Shadow Star and everyday boy “Nate Belen”. This mission and crush has helped lift Nick from the depression he suffered when his mother was tragically killed two years ago.
Nick’s dad is a cop and his only remaining family. They have a good relationship, but Nick struggles to connect with people in general due to his ADHD and neurodiverse situation. This is likely why he cannot see that Seth is actively pining for Nick–and it’s soon clear that Nick is missing the biggest secret in Nova City: he’s actually friends with the Extraordinaries that he idolizes.
Nick’s mission is to be normal at school, allaying his father’s fears for his future, but also to join the ranks of Extraordinaries, so he can:
1. get Shadow Star to fall in love with him, and
2. protect his dad from harm.
Much of the story is Nick strategizing hare-brained plans to unlock his Extraordinary potential. His awkwardness and complete obliviousness to reality is shake your head funny, but Nick isn’t the butt of jokes. His sincerity and desperation bring a gravitas to him, even when it’s clear that most everyone can see the bigger picture while Nick’s trapped in minutia.
Nick’s anxiety, depression and ADHD are a huge part of his character’s personality, and I really enjoyed the mental rollercoaster that Nick lived in. I felt how deeply it encompassed his worldview, and how frustrating it was to struggle with these hurdles minute-by-minute and pill by pill. Nick’s impulsive nature is further rattled when his dad gets injured while protecting people from the increasingly more dangerous battles between Shadow Star and Pyro Storm.
This is the first story in a series, and I seriously could not stop turning the pages. I was charmed and intrigued throughout, only slightly discombobulated by the fanfic opening. I adored Nick, and his narration is a masterstroke of YA voice. His one-sdied love afair with Shadow Star morphs into something much greater, and more satisfactory as he gains both knowledge and perspective. Expect some boys kissing!
We get some solid leads on the direction of the next story by well-placed clues about previous Extraordinaries that have disappeared, and the startling occurrences that shield Nick when Shadow Star and Pyro Storm are involved in battle. It’s a coming of age story, in many ways, but it’s also a coming to terms story, with Nick being a (lovable) petulant teen, confused why his dad now insists that Nick “leave the door open” when Seth visits his room. He clearly doesn’t get that they are only best pals! He’s also mortified by his dad’s “protection” demos involving items like bananas and vague threats of talks with his service pistol handy. There is so much awesomeness packed in this story, I can’t believe my iPad didn’t explode with cape-wearing kittens and chocolates filled with rainbow ganache.
I’d honestly read this story over and over, and highly recommend it to YA readers, and fans of superhero or LGBTQ stories. Like every Klune book I’ve ever read, I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel.
About the Author:
TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.
Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!