Nerds and Beyond was fortunate enough to get an advance copy of TJ Klune’s The Extraordinaries, which is now available for purchase. This YA novel is a queer coming of age story that takes the reader on a journey into the world of superheroes, being a fanboy, love, and realizing what is right in front of you all along.
The author TJ Klune is a Lambda Literary Award winner for his book The House in the Cerulean Sea and has written over 10 books for adults so far, with more planned and on the way. The Extraordinaries will be Klune’s debut young adult book. Being queer himself, Klune believes it is essential, now more than ever, to have accurate, positive queer representation in stories. Along with the release of this book, he will be doing a virtual book tour.
If you haven’t read the book yet, there will be spoilers beyond this point.
The Extraordinaries follows Nick Bell, a teenager that has been through a lot in his life. His mom passed away a few years ago, and he and his dad, who is a policeman, are still struggling to find a new normal. Because his dad works a lot, they only really have breakfast together and the brief phone and weekend interactions. After Nick’s dad gets hurt on the job while saving someone due to the two extraordinaries violently fighting, they realize what matters. There are some emotionally charges scenes between him and his father that hit me in the heart, and yes, I shed a few tears.
This quote is one of my favorites from the book and sums up Nick’s character and journey very well. I got this quote from the ARC, so it may be different in the released copy.
“There were days when everything felt like it was dialed up to eleven, and he didn’t know how to stop it, no matter how hard he tried. For the most part, he’d accepted that some people were born to be medicated, so they didn’t spin out of control. Fair? Not really, but Nick was learning that his brain could do things that others couldn’t. In a way, he had his own superpower, even if it was called a disorder.”
When I first began reading, I was a little confused. It felt like I was reading fanfiction from a site like AO3. It turned out I was reading fanfiction, but it was fanfiction from the protagonist Nick. In high school, Nicholas Bell has recently broken up with his sort-of boyfriend Owen, is starting a new medication for his ADHD, and just made the promise to his dad that he will be and do better this year. What could go wrong?
A little bit about Nick is that he has the biggest crush on Shadow Star — like he has a Shadow Star pillow under his bed that he kisses type of crush. Shadow Star is Nova City’s superhero. Superheroes are also known as Extraordinaries. Nick writes a lot of fanfiction about his favorite hero to become one of the most popular fanfiction writers in the Extraordinaries fandom. After being saved by the masked hero, who somehow knew his full name without being told, Nick wants nothing more than to become extraordinary with or without his friend’s help. He wants to get close and to help Shadow Star, who he pretty much has up on a pedestal. His best friend Seth is not entirely on board with this idea and tries to reason with him about what being like his idol would be like. It is very descriptive and on the nose, almost like Seth knows more then he is saying. Oh, also, Seth has been in love with Nick for a long time. Only Nick is so clueless and angsty for the hero that he doesn’t notice what is in front of him. Those moments are cringeworthy at times, but then again, it is accurate to the characters’ age, especially when he finally clues in.
There are two extraordinaries in Nova City. The first is Shadow Star, who is the hero that holds his heart. The second is Pyro Storm. Every hero has a nemesis. Shadow Star is the one who gets all the publicity from the annoying reporter Rebecca Firestone. I mean, who leaves a teen on a platform to fall to his death? The two battle it out occasionally, but things begin to heat up and get more violent, and as Pyro Storm and Shadow Star fight, there is more damage and casualties that come with it. That forces some truths to come out, even if it is not something Nick or Nova City wants to hear. But the closer you look, the more you see the discrepancies between good and evil and that the hero is not always the obvious choice.
Some of my favorite parts of the book were the banter between Nick and his dad. It reminded me of how my father and I were when we would joke around. Also, in the banter he has with his friends, we can imagine the conversation happening. It felt that natural to the characters and the description the readers knew about them.
Speaking of his friends, Klune does an excellent job of including diverse characters. His love interest is his bisexual best friend who wears thick glasses and bowties, Gibby is described as a Black butch lesbian, and her girlfriend Jazz is a lesbian cheerleader. There are also multiple queer secondary characters in the book. Plus, the slow build-up to the Seth and Nick romance is what I am here for, best friends to lovers, give me all those tropes.
The book ends on a little bit of a cliff hanger with learning some interesting information about Nick’s mom, Nick himself, and Mr. Bell’s new job, paving the way for the second book coming in 2021 and the third in 2022.
If you would like to know more about TJ Klune and his books, you can find more information on his website and social media accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of The Extraordinaries when released on July 14, 2020.