When Harry was 10, he learned to fly. It was the simple act of a child trying to save his friend, and it changed their world forever. Now Harry and Sam are on the run, keeping a low profile and trying to avoid the mysterious figures who keep popping up in their black suits, asking questions about Harry that they would rather not answer. For the moment, though, everything seems to be going fine.
Sam has a steady job washing dishes that pays the rent and gets them food, and Harry has found a group of similarly gifted people who want him to join them. There’s Jonah, the telepath and father figure; Maia, with her biting comments and control over the elements; Miranda, who can turn invisible; and the brothers, Gabriel, the shapeshifter, and Alejandro, the Precognitive. They want Harry to come live with them and train with him and Harry wants that, too. The only problem is they don’t want Sam.
Sam and Harry would do anything for one another, but Sam has no intention of doing anything for Jonah. He doesn’t trust the other man and can’t stand Maia — any more than she can stand him — but when Harry loses control of his power, Sam has to make the hard choice to let him go. However, now that Jonah has Harry where he wants him, and Harry has the chance to get all the training he needs, Harry starts having problems. He can’t seem to fly anymore and it’s only getting worse.
Sam may not have any special powers, but he is most certainly the brains of the outfit. For all that he’s younger than Harry and never finished high school, he’s always watching and thinking and planning for the two of them. It’s Sam who makes the decisions for the pair of them, and — knowing that — it’s Sam Jonah most often works on, trying to find the right buttons and the right words to convince Sam to let Harry join his group. Sam doesn’t trust the telepath, especially since he can see how Jonah manipulates everyone around him. When he does finally let Harry go, it’s with the absolute confidence that nothing Jonah says and nothing he can offer him will ever convince Harry to stay.
Harry acts like a thoughtless jock, all smiles and charm and superpowers, but he’s not. He relies on Sam, knowing his boyfriend is perhaps smarter than he is, but for all his flippancy and carelessness, Harry has a steel spine, especially where Sam is concerned. It’s Harry who fights back when Sam agrees to let him train with Jonah, and it’s Harry who insists on nightly phone calls and makes Jonah send other members of the team to check on Sam — and demands Jonah pay their rent so Sam doesn’t have to work himself into the ground.
The two of them complement each other well. Sam and Harry stand up for both themselves as a couple and themselves as people. Both of them are self-sacrificing, both of them are loyal — both of them are hero material. The one time we see them fight felt disingenuous to me, as if the author wanted there to be a little more character-driven conflict, but I don’t think it needed it.
The true emotional weight of the story comes from Sam, who has to accept his lack of powers and how he just can’t help Harry become the hero he needs to be. Sam has to find a way to deal with the fact that Jonah might actually know a little bit more than he does about what’s best for his boyfriend. Sam has to learn to let Harry do things that don’t involve him. He has to accept his jealousy and his resentment and be mature enough to move past them.
I have some issues with this story, the first being Jonah. I appreciate that Jonah isn’t completely good in this superhero world, but I do feel as if some of his character building is slightly undone by actions taken in the last few chapters. Then there’s the world building. This is a superhero story that takes its world completely for granted. The setting might as well be called Genericburg, Genericstate, because there’s no description of anything, no flavor to the world they live in, and no explanation about how or why Harry came into his powers. We know Harry started flying roughly seven years ago, but … how? Why? Is it a virus, a science experiment gone wrong, magic? How do normal people react to superheroes? How does the local government or police force treat them? None of this is looked at, or even hinted at.
I’m also not a fan of the end of Sam’s character arc.
He goes from being the one constantly left out, the civilian in the midst of a friend circle made of people with powers, to being the ultimate, most powerful, most magical, and most rare of them all. All his stress over Harry leaving him, of him finding a place without Sam, is just blithely tossed out the window when it no longer suits the story. While I understand the idea of giving Sam a special and unique power, the end result felt rather too pat. The other characters were limited in how they could use their power; Sam, not so much. Instead of going from being on the outside looking in to being part of his new family, he’s now the best thing since sliced bread. It didn’t work for me, personally, and I don’t think it quite fit Sam’s character.
There are parts of this book that are deftly and subtly handled, and then the ending comes at you like a freight train. This is a comic book story, so a certain amount of cartoonish action is to be expected — and no matter what the situation is, the characters are mostly in their teens here, which makes them emotional and prone to melodrama — but I found the ending was a bit over-the-top. I would have preferred something more like the beginning of the book, where it relied less on big special effects and more on the characters coming together to work as a group. Even so, this was a fun story, just a slightly uneven one in terms of plotting and character growth.
Note: This is a YA story that involves two minor aged children — 16 and 17 — involved in a sexual relationship, and while their sex scenes are more PG-13 than R, they’re certainly present in the story. The book doesn’t mention a particular city or state, so I can’t verify if Sam is actually above the age of consent during the book. The two main characters are runaways, and one of them is kidnapped and tortured; in other sections, young children are also being “experimented on,” though in a very comic-book fashion.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.