They are THE EXTRAORDINARIES–A Review

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.

About the book:
Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

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).

My Review:
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.

Interested? You can find THE EXTRAORDINARIES on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

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.

You can catch up with TJ on his website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Captivated by BEAR, OTTER AND THE KID–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing the love for a M/M romance I’d had in my TBR for, well, TOO long. I get nervous about books not living up to their hype, and so many people loved BEAR, OTTER, AND THE KID…I was afraid I wouldn’t. Silly V!

Bear, Otter, and the Kid (Bear, Otter, and the Kid, #1)About the Book:

Three years ago, Bear McKenna’s mother took off for parts unknown with her new boyfriend, leaving Bear to raise his six-year-old brother Tyson, aka the Kid. Somehow they’ve muddled through, but since he’s totally devoted to the Kid, Bear isn’t actually doing much living—with a few exceptions, he’s retreated from the world, and he’s mostly okay with that. Until Otter comes home.

Otter is Bear’s best friend’s older brother, and as they’ve done for their whole lives, Bear and Otter crash and collide in ways neither expect. This time, though, there’s nowhere to run from the depth of emotion between them. Bear still believes his place is as the Kid’s guardian, but he can’t help thinking there could be something more for him in the world… something or someone.

My Review:

Bear McKenna is one day shy of his 18th birthday when his mother takes off with her latest loser of a boyfriend and 95% of his savings leaving Bear with $137.50 and a forged Power of Attorney so he’ll be able to manage the legalities of caring for his 6 y/o half-brother, Tyson. Mother Of The Year, right?

The story begins three years later. Bear has done a valiant job raising the Kid, as Ty Is called. Bear and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Anna and his elderly neighbor Mrs. Paquinn manage the care of Kid, but it’s nearly summer and Bear is looking forward to the return of his BFF, Creed, from college. What he doesn’t expect is the return of Oliver (Otter), Creed’s older brother, from his three year self-exile in San Diego. Otter is gay, and he and Bear shared a drunken kiss three years before, the very night Otter up and left for Cali.

Bear has always wondered why, but so many people have left him, he doesn’t expect any different.

But, things are. Otter is depressed and Creed wants Bear to find out why. Turns out Otter has silently loved Bear for a long, long time. He never did anything about it because Bear was straight, and a child, comparatively. There is an 8 year age difference.

The writing is so beautiful; we are in Bear’s head throughout and we see his slow changes, his gradual acceptance, his deep love for Kid, and Anna, and Creed….and Otter. Their summer of love is tender and tragic, by turns. It seems, this summer, all the chickens come home to roost. Some good, some vile. The absolute love that Bear has for Kid, the way his life is forfeit to caring for his wise, eccentric, ecoterrorist-in-training, 9-going-on-60 year old brother is spectacular, and humbling.

This book. THIS book. It is amazing. It is broken and tender and loving and lost and I am better for knowing Bear and Otter and the Kid’s story. I want to hug each of them, and make their sorrows cease, but I don’t have to because they can do that even better than I can.

This a romance, but it is also a story, an epic poem of love lost and gained and squandered and regained. I loved every one of the words. Even the bad words, even the hate, because it made the love that much more beautiful.

Interested? You can find BEAR, OTTER, AND THE KID on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, AllRomance, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

I’ve already bought the sequel. I’m gonna squeeze that one in just as soon as I can!

About the Author:

When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.

He lives with a neurotic cat in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It’s hot there, but he doesn’t mind. He dreams about one day standing at Stonehenge, just so he can say he did.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!