Jessica Tran has finally accepted that she is never going to have super powers. Both her parents are heroes with abilities like flight and super strength. And her older sister manifested her powers at age 15 and is now hero too. Even Jessica’s little brother is special as he is super smart and got into college as just a kid. But Jessica is almost 17 and it is pretty clear that if she doesn’t have any powers yet, they aren’t coming. And that is going to keep her being a nobody. Jessica has her best friends Bells and Emma, but other than that, she mostly keeps to herself and isn’t particularly special. No one really notices her and she definitely feels under the weight of her siblings’ shadow. And her crush, Abby, doesn’t even know who Jessica is.
When Jessica decides to get an internship, she is surprised to be hired by Monroe Industries. The company is a technology leader and she can’t imagine why their experimental division wants to hire a high schooler with no experience, but she takes the job. It is even better because Abby works there as well, along with the mysterious M. When Jessica learns more about the division, she realizes this is a chance to have a little fun, and maybe rebel against her parents a bit. And the longer she works there, the closer she and Abby get, becoming good friends.
Things seem to be going well, but soon it becomes clear that all isn’t as it seems. Jessica learns more about the history of heroes and villains, and things that she has always believed to be true now seem much more suspect. The people she always thought of as the good guys may not actually all be on the right side, and the so-called villains may be more innocent than they seem. As Jessica and Abby work to find the truth, they gain the attention of people who want to keep their secrets hidden. The girls are determined to find out what is really going on, but their digging is putting them in danger.
I heard great things about this story, so when choosing a book for Genre Week for our Reading Challenge Month, I decided this would be a good choice. The book is not only young adult, but lesbian romance as well. While I do read and review both, they are not my regular go to genres, so this seemed like a great chance to push my boundaries a little. And boy, am I glad I did because this one was fabulous!
Author C.B. Lee has created a wonderful world here, kind of a post-apocalyptic/futuristic mashup. The world was hit by solar flares that caused major havoc and left the national boundaries changed, as well as many cities and towns decimated. At the same time, the flares activated a gene that created meta humans, people with super powers. It has been years since the disaster, and things are slowly settling back down. Now there are villains and the heroes who work to stop them. Jessica’s parents are two of those heroes, though nobody knows, as they keep their identities hidden. There is also a science fiction element here as this is set in a future with self driving cars, personal electronic wrist bands, and robots that do housework. Lee does a wonderful job with the world building here, both from the superhero and the technology end. It is creative and well developed and unfolds in a way that never feels like info dump, but also doesn’t leave you waiting to understand what is going on.
I loved Jessica and the story is told from her POV. She is a great kid, but mostly an ordinary one. She has superhero parents and overachieving siblings and she is stuck in the middle. So taking this job is a tiny bit of rebellion on her part, but she also really likes it. She enjoys working with Abby, but she also likes the work and the longer she is there, the more she begins to learn. Jessica is a pretty typical teen, and she actually is quite a bit more awesome than she recognizes. So part of this story is seeing her slowly gain confidence and learn that she has a lot of strength and talent.
This is a young adult story, so we also get a sweet romance between Jessica and Abby. At first, Jessica can barely talk to Abby without stammering, but soon they grow to be friends. It still takes a while for Jessica to work up the nerve to ask Abby out, and she is adorably awkward and insecure at first. Things are pretty chaste here with only a few kisses, but Lee conveys the feelings between these girls really well. This is definitely a story that worked for me as a superhero loving geeky adult, but also would be fitting for even the younger tweens as there is no sex, no bad language I can recall, and no major violence (though there are a threatening couple of scenes where the girls are in danger). There are also some nice secondary characters in Jessica’s best friends Emma and Bells, as well as a lot of diversity overall, both racially and on the GBLT spectrum.
So I found this story a lot of fun. The superhero element was great, the world building was excellently done, and the themes of young love and learning confidence and acceptance of yourself were nicely handled. This is the first of a series, and while the arc wraps up here, it is clear there is more to come for Jessica and Abby and I can’t wait to follow along.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for Genre Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Less Than Three Press. Three lucky winners will each receive a selection of print books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Genre Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!