Five college kids get superpowers for no reason and decide they should be superheroes. The basic gimmick is that it's real people having a realistic experience with superpowers.
I wanted SO hard to love this, but I didn't. Why does "realistic" have to mean boring and annoying? The second page gives us this fantastic quote: "This isn't some snooty book where people nobody likes do things nobody cares about for reasons nobody can figure out. That's what they call literature." It'd be an even better quote if it didn't exactly describe this book!
I didn't like any of the characters. The ones I liked in the beginning got more and more boring, and the ones I disliked in the beginning got worse and worse. At first I kind of wanted things to turn out well for them, but by about halfway through I just never wanted to see them again. Plus, there are a lot of characters and they're all the same. They're written in the exact same style and their backgrounds are the same, so it's really hard to keep each of their arcs coherent.
There are a lot of POVs and that puts way too much distance between the reader and the action, or lack thereof. MINOR SPOILERS: There's no supervillain. There's no villain at all. At this point every superhero novel is experimental and this is a good choice for what Schwartz was trying to do, but what he does instead doesn't work. The novel starts on May 19, 2001, and you can guess where it's headed... The lasy 75 pages consist of "9/11 was sad," over and over and over. That's true, but when that's all you do for 75 pages it gets old fast, and it doesn't actually constitute a climax. 9/11 WAS sad, and if you're going to use it in a book it should make me feel something besides boredom. END MINOR SPOILERS.
Like so many literary novels, there were a million interesting places this story could have gone, but it didn't go to any of them. It got bogged down in "nobody's perfect," and even more than that, "everyone is terrible." Thanks a lot, literature.
Superheroes are about setting an example, an ideal to reach for. They're about inspiring people to try harder and be better. They aren't supposed to be realistic.
Skip this book and read Hero instead.
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