In the new book, Supra/Normal: No More Superheroes, author A.S. McDermott has shaken up the concept of superheroes. In fact, in this amazing book, he takes the genre, throws it into a blender, and adds some different ingredients to the mix, making for a tasty treat. It is a kick-ass book with seemingly non-stop action, but the author takes the time to shape his characters and make them real and believable.
Julie Jackson is one fine protagonist, coping with her superpower in a world that wants to destroy her. She learns of her power when she is 12 – that is around the age that most supras discover them – and uses them to do good deeds. She lives an otherwise normal life with her younger brothers, mother, and stepdad.
Supras are outlawed by Supreme President Stevenson – a former supra who “cured” himself – who waged a war against all supras, led by the greatest supra of all, and then defeated the supra forces and their leader Dr. Simone Dalton. Dalton and many others were killed and now, a generation later, supras are hunted and incarcerated.
What worries Julie is that she is going to get a blood test at school. This will reveal whether or not she has supra blood. When it seems that her blood test comes back as “normal,” Julie wonders why she has powers (hers is super strength) and what is she if she’s not a supra?
All is going well enough until the night of a basketball game. She goes to see Steve – her crush and captain of the team, of course – and a freak accident forces her to reveal her superpower by saving Steve’s life in front of the crowd at the game.
Forced to run without saying goodbye to her family, Julie is out on her own until she encounters an old woman who wants to help her. This woman turns out to be the supposedly dead Dr. Dalton, and she sets the record straight about the war, the president, and takes her in and promises to train her to use her powers.
Dr. Dalton takes her to a hideout, where Julie meets other teenagers who are supras as well. There is 12-year old Penny, a tech wiz who is a genius and already at the level of Einstein-like intelligence. Monica is a teenage girl whom Penny calls “our pyro” because she can throw flames, and then the oldest, Leon whose power is being able to fly.
The other “supras” all are relatable and are portrayed in an honest way. The author gets the teenage angst angle right, and what did anyone think would happen if you give superpowers to teens and tweens?
While the gang learns to cope with and use their powers, they also are taught to deal with a group known as the Normalizers – they are a vicious police group who have been engineered to capture the supras. When they get close to supras, they lose their powers like Superman does with Kryptonite.
They form a cohesive group, though Julie and Monica clash sometimes. When it is discovered that Steve – the basketball star whom Julie saved – has been declared a supra and incarcerated, the group makes it their mission to bust him out of a high security facility. Can they rescue him before the Normalizers come to stop them?
The rest of the way is spoiler territory, but I can attest to the fact that reading this book is like riding a roller coaster that you hope will never end. Along the swift-paced journey, there are moments when characters reveal their emotions, and it is done in such a way as to respect the characters and the reader can see how much the author cares about them.
While there is jovial thread that runs through the story – especially in our narrator Julie, who is self-deprecating and never takes herself or her power too seriously – there are some important areas covered as well.
The whole concept of “normal” is dealt with in a powerful and meaningful way. The question volleyed more than once thematically is “What is normal?” in a world where history has been rewritten, the leader is a homicidal maniac, and the people called Normalizers are far removed from being “normal” people.
This is a wonderful, awesome, and emotional story that leaves plenty of room for a sequel (fingers crossed). Watch out MCU, there is a new breed of superhero around, and this one is ripe for a film version – I can see Kiernan Shipka in the role of Julie. This is a great summer read for the YA crowd but also great for readers of all ages.
I highly recommend Supra/Normal: No More Superheroes and suggest that you add it to your summer reading list ASAP.