Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Review: Overpowered

By: Mark H. Kruger
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: August 27, 2013
Genre: YA science fiction
 432 pages
Source: hard copy kindly provided by publisher

This book was a fun read that kept me turning the pages, despite some issues that kept it from being great. Please, if you decide to read the following few paragraphs, agree to read to the end of this review. Give me a chance to explain why I kept reading instead of giving it up, even though there were things that bothered me.

There is a difference between writing for TV and writing novels, and Overpowered is evidence that this author hasn't quite mastered it. The plot arc is amiss; this story may physically be in novel form, but it reads like a collection of television episodes. We never get an answer to a central question in the novel, and the cliffhanger at the end is exactly what a series would do at the end of a season to retain its audience.

The main character, Nica, makes friends with the only other kids in town who share her particular set of circumstances before any of them are aware that they have anything in common. There are voice continuity issues, such as the use of "scores of students" twice on one page. A teen would be very unlikely to use that phrase. And if we want to argue that she might if she's been raised as a planet-trotter, then there should be enough other anomalies in her speech patterns for it to be a noticeable character trait. The romantic scenes are hit-or-miss as well; I remember one string of sentences describing the action of the scene, but lacking the connection to what the character was feeling.

Are you still reading? Good- because there are also some really great parts of this book that I want a chance to talk up. The concept as a whole, for example: I loved, LOVED the combination of sci-fi (the pulse and its effects on the characters) and the conspiracy (discovery of the bad guys and what they want/are capable of.) The pace set by these two elements was quick, and created a need to keep up the chase, page after page. If you remember enjoying watching Heroes on television a few years back, you will connect to this book immediately.

I was very impressed with Kruger's ability to create characters that were distinct and accessible, especially in a setting that is intentionally discouraging of individuality and self-determination. The teens and the adults alike, even secondary characters, were very easy to imagine and connect to. The setting, as well, is beautifully described and flows well with the action. Kruger's background in writing for a visual medium is a strong asset in his writing for print.

There is a scene late in the book that describes teens and their reliance on technology that I bookmarked, not because it's integral to the plot, but because the passage is brilliant all on its own. Moments like this are sprinkled throughout the book; there is so much promise in this writing. It was really fun to watch for these passages, the evidence that there is some real potential in this writer and this story. There are subplots that I would love to explore, and of course, that cliffhanger just screams for resolution. I hope we eventually see a sequel- both so we get to see what happens to these characters, and so we see how the writing progresses.


The world's safest town might actually be a deadly kind of dangerous. And Nica Ashley is about to learn the hard way.

Nica Ashley is accustomed to traveling the globe with her journalist mother, so when she gets sent to live in a small town with the father she barely knows, she's in for a bit of a culture shock. Barrington prides itself on being a sleepy, family community with the lowest crime rates in the state of Colorado. There's even a private security force run by Barrington Technology (BarTech) and a nightly curfew for all residents.

On Nica's first day at school, she meets Jackson Winters and finds out he went from school superstar to living ghost after his girlfriend disappeared a few months ago. When Nica follows him out after curfew one night, they both witness a mysterious green flash-and the next morning the power has gone out and all the birds are dead.

But secrets are well and alive, and as Nica and some of her friends discover they now have abilities best described as "super," they also realize that Barrington might not be so safe. And that BarTech is looking for them.

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