Chris is a new college freshman unsure why he is even attending Creekville University. He didn’t apply, but was offered a full scholarship. He’s only on campus a day when he learns that his scholarship is dependent upon him working for Ethics professor, Dr. Faran. Oh, and Faran’s research is based on the development of supernatural powers. And, Chris cannot talk about any of the research in Faran’s laboratory to anyone not covered by Faran’s magical contracts. Chris has no powers, though he’d like them. He makes a few friends, but is mostly intrigued by a senior student, Frederick, who also works with Faran. Frederick seemingly has no powers, but develops some—super strength, agility and speed—which are not particularly marketable or beneficial because they are so common.
As the book moves forward, Frederick becomes more and more despondent regarding his lack of marketable skills. Through his confidences with Chris, we learn that Frederick’s family has turned him out for his homosexuality, and his small southern community will not take him back. If Frederick cannot secure a job before graduation he’ll become homeless. Chris continues to reach out to Frederick, but the emotional toll seems to be very great. Trigger warning—Frederick is VERY depressed and self-harm occurs.
I think I didn’t get the supernatural aspect from the blurb, but the book opened with a feat of telekinesis, so I got on board right away. The magical abilities the characters display are rooted in logic, not wizardry, which was refreshing. I liked Chris. He’s a great kid. He knows he doesn’t belong at Creekville and is appropriately worried about being discovered as a fraud. Not that he signed up to BE a fraud! He tries hard in his classes, but nothing seems to interest him until he makes contact with some psych majors and learns about their empathic abilities. Chris attempts his first steps of coming out, and finds many interested partners—even when he isn’t looking, but his heart is set on Frederick.
Chris so confused about Faran and the ulterior motives of this good-looking, charismatic man. It is through all of Chris’ angst over Frederick’s emotional state and depression that Chris actually decides upon his major—psychology—and seems to develop his ability, though he keeps all of the ability stuff to himself. This is protective for himself and Frederick, as Chris senses that Faran will likely exploit him if he knows.
Unfortunately, the book ends mid-year, and it felt very unsettled. While there is some resolution, it’s not a complete picture in comparison to the plot lines that had been woven. Chris desires Frederick as a boyfriend, and I hoped that Frederick would return his affection and clear interest, but not so much. He does take Chris up on an offer of friendship, and this is his only real lifeline. Chris was okay with being friends, hurt, but not overly so, which demonstrated a maturity I admired. There are a couple of physical scenes in the book, but the steam factor is pretty low. Honestly, this is not a romance; it’s a coming of age, coming out, coming into powers story, but not a romance. That said, I did like this supernatural world and also the characters, primary and secondary. I’m intrigued enough to want the sequel.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.