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mini review: “the extraordinaries” by t.j. klune

“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).”

goodreads | find your local indie bookstore

hardcover, 405 pages

published july 14, 2020

i first discovered t.j. klune through the house in the cerulean sea, which was one of my favorite reads of 2020. the extraordinaries is his YA debut and follows nick, a gay high school student in the fictional nova city. nick has ADHD and is a tiiiny bit obsessed with extraordinaies, the superhumans who serve (or don’t serve) the city. and by obsessed, i mean he has a dedicated tumblr account and a very detailed self-insert fanfiction in the works. his mom died before the events of the book, so he lives with his dad and spends most of his time with his best friends, seth, gibby and jazz. after a chance encounter with his celebrity crush/extraordinary hero/self-insert fanfic love interest, shadow star, nick decides he’s going to become an extraordinary, with or without his best friend, seth, who’s very touchy about the subject.

just to preface my review: this book is SO CAMPY. the fanfiction, the pining, the superheroes, costumes, the banter, everything. i had to remind myself to stop taking everything so seriously and just lean into the secondhand embarrassment. (i had just read song of achilles, in my defense.) but after reminding myself to just have fun, that’s exactly what i did. klune writes nick in such a fun way that i was cracking up every few pages. i had to put my kindle down a few times to make sure i was getting oxygen to my brain. nick, especially when with his friends, was such a fun character to spend time with. but it was also so lovely to see him work through his struggles with his ADHD, insecurities, grief and his relationship with his dad outside of that. he was so beautifully written and solid throughout the whole story and i found myself cheering him on at every step, even when he was jumping into a polluted river in his underwear with a drag queen’s ring in hopes of gaining magical powers.

all of the supporting characters were also amazing—they all added to the story and i loved seeing the world grow through them. there’s nick’s dad, who is struggling to work night shifts and connect with his kid, seth, who is definitely in love with nick but has some pretty big secrets, who is an amazingly badass Black lesbian who takes no shit, and jazz, her girlfriend, who is constantly surprising everyone. they all drive their stories forward in their own ways and i genuinely wish i could sit at their lunch table with them.

one big thing—aside from his perfect characters—that i love about t.j. klune’s books is that he is constantly surprising me. whether it be having one fo the orphans in the house in the cerulean sea be the literal antichrist who loves vintage records or the twisty plot in this book that had me guessing and rethinking my guesses every chapter, i was never bored and always trying to see if i could figure out the twist (i was wrong).

honestly, i just had so much fun reading this and i cannot wait for the sequel to come out in july so i can see what other shenanigans nick gets up to. i’m manifesting more reads like this for the rest of the year.

(also, if you read this—please do—read past the acknowledgements so you don’t miss the crazy teaser that i missed the first time around.)

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