The story follows our main character Nick Bell, a high school junior with ADHD who lives alone with his father, a police officer.
They reside in Nova City, a city of superheroes (who are called “Extraordinaries”) and Nick is a die-hard fan of one particular local superhero: Shadow Star (and Nick harbors a not-so-secret crush on the superhero). Nick spends his days writing fan fiction about Shadow Star and his arch-nemesis Pyro Storm. Nick’s best friend Seth, how also happens to be super cute (and may or may not be a potential love interest), beta-reads all of Nick’s writings.
Nick is crushing pretty seriously on Shadow Storm, and that crush becomes even more exacerbated after Nick has a real live encounter with the superhero. After that encounter, Nick decides he’s going to do whatever it takes to become an “Extraordinary” himself — that is to say, to somehow morph into a superhero.
But when the battle between Shadow Star and Pyro Storm escalates to epic proportions, Nick is thrust right in the center of it.
I loved this book on so many different levels. First off, the humor and banter was superb and caused me to cackle out loud several times. The author’s witty and clever use of language also succeeded in bringing a smile to my face all throughout the story. It was so much fun following along with Nick and his friends as Nick learned not only about himself but also about the superheroes that he worships. I fell in love with the fumbly, clueless, bumbling Nick with all of his flaws and shortcomings, rendering him utterly endearing and adorable. I enjoyed how everything he did seemed to land him in hot water.
Nick’s voice grabbed me instantly, with sharp humor and tender growing up moments, and didn’t let go until the very last page. This is openhearted storytelling at its best. Humor is often tough for me, but I felt the author really nailed it here. The fluffy romantic aspect of the story — notably the angsty (and sometimes infuriating) mutual pining between two of the characters — really warmed my heart and found myself rooting for them to get together right from the get-go.
I loved the positive LGBTQ+ and ADHD representation in this queer coming-of-age tale about a lovable boy with ADHD. The secondary characters, many of whom are also queer, were also equally amazing. There’s Seth who is bisexual; we have Gibby (the badass) and Jazz (former popular girl), the two lesbian best friends of both Nick and Seth who are also romantically involved with each other; and then there’s Nick’s ex-boyfriend Owen who continues to thrust himself into Nick’s circle of friends and who, as we learn later on in the story, has some pretty serious issues of his own to contend with.
Speaking of serious issues, at first glance, The Extraordinaries seems like a fun, lighthearted romp but as is typical for a TJ Klune novel, it delves into some pretty serious topics such as grief, ADHD, death of a parent, loss, self-discovery, complicated relationships, self-esteem and perhaps most importantly, self-acceptance all of which were handled expertly by the author.
The author, whom I believe is neurodiverse himself, masterfully portrays Nick’s struggles with ADHD, such as his difficulty concentrating, his chaotic thoughts, his challenges at school, and how his verbal “filter” doesn’t always come to his rescue. Additionally, the author nicely illustrates the strain that ADHD can cause in one’s relationships. But that being said, the author does give Nick a fantastic circle of support in both his father and his friends.
All in all, I found The Extraordinaries to be a delightful, poignant novel that’s heartbreaking in places, angsty in others but with exciting twists and surprises along the way. As is typical of this author’s work, I was immediately captivated by the superlative writing and remained riveted throughout the entire novel. The characters were not only compelling but also relatable, and no doubt, many people will be able to see themselves in the characters on these pages. I felt it was the perfect blend between lightheartedness and seriousness. I absolutely loved this little gem of a novel and found it wildly entertaining with its secret identities, its mysteries, and its tender coming-of-age.
The book did leave the possibility for a sequel, and I hope the author continues on with this delightful world and these delightful characters.
A huge thank you to Netgalley for providing a review copy of this book.