I was sent this book as an advance listening copy via libro.fm for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
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).
Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl meets Marissa Meyer’s Renegades in TJ Klune’s YA debut.
Release date: July 14th
My first T.J. Klune book! And it was a lot of laugh-out-loud fun with lots of queer pining and yearning and obliviousness.
This managed to be both a superhero story and a piece of meta fiction that knows it’s making fun of its own genre. It’s the kind of YA that interacts with you and doesn’t treat you like you’re clueless but instead knows you’re part of the inside joke, and therefore is not frustrating in a way that some YA books that take themselves too seriously are.
It’s also delightfully and effortlessly queer, with a full queer main cast (queer girls! in a m/m story!) that reflects the reality for so many queer people finding themselves even before coming out to themselves. And it’s not a coming out story: everyone is out already at the beginning of the book.
A big part of Nick’s story is his ADHD and on this aspect it was the best book with a canon ADHD character I’ve ever read. I loved how it was both in the forefront since there were several instances where Nick felt like people wanted him to be different, and even when it was more in the background it was still there in Nick’s thoughts and in the way he spoke and interacted with the people around him, because that’s how it is: you can choose to talk about it or not, make it a topic of conversation or not, but your ADHD is always there and it’s not something that simply goes away. Others may overlook it or conveniently forget about it when you’re not showing the most obvious symptoms, but you just keep living with it. Nick’s friends were used to him and saw him, saw him for all he is, ADHD included, and I thought that was really beautifully done.
I really don’t want to talk about the story too much because I think it’s one of those novels where it’s best to go in without knowing anything. I can also highly recommend the audiobook, the narrator really made the story come to life and it made me feel like he was also part of the conversation between author and reader, like how he emphasized the redundant adverbs in Nick’s very-amateurishly-written fanfiction. I think it’s really nice when you can hear the narrator having fun and understanding the book and what it’s trying to do.
I do want to point out a little bit of a sore spot, which is only partly the book’s fault, but reading and reviewing doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it would be disingenuous of me not to mention this. The book is filled with idealized views on a police that keeps people safe, and policemen who join it because they wanted to protect people. It’s unfortunate timing and even if this story doesn’t take place in our world and everything is a little bit more idealized (for example there’s no queerphobia) it was still hard not to grimace several times. This is not the central part of the story but it is pretty prevalent since Nick’s father is a cop. There was also a joke about police brutality which would be very easy to edit out before the book comes out (I hope they’re still on time do to that) but should not have been there in the first place. Even if we white people have had the privilege to believe in an idealized police until now, the author should have known better and not included a joke about it in his book.
Other than this it was almost perfect and I’m looking forward to reading more books by the author, including the possible sequel to this (because while this story is mostly wrapped up and could easily stand alone, it does leave room for further exploration and development).
TWs: grieving over the loss of a parent, injuries, hospitals, violence, panic attack