This was supposed to be a review of TJ Klune’s newest book for young adults, Flash Fire, but that is a sequel to The Extraordinaries, and I found that I couldn’t write about the second book without revealing spoilers from the first one. I am quite fond of Klune’s writing, and liked both books for their snide humor and ability to explore relationships between queer teens without the need for them to question their orientation. So I’ll stick with the first book.
The main protagonist (of both books) is sixteen-year-old Nick Bell, who has problems focusing and often blurts out things he shouldn’t say, but is totally focused when it comes to his crush, an “Extraordinary” who calls himself Shadow Star. Nick has never met Shadow Star, but has generated hundreds of thousands of words of fan-fic starring himself being rescued by Shadow Star, usually from his nemesis, Pyro Storm. His story seems to be stalled because Nick seems a little fuzzy on (if not grossed out by) what, exactly, is involved when it comes to post-rescue things like physical intimacy and being in love.
Nick is surrounded by a supportive and wonderful cast of both kids and adults. His best friend forever, Seth Gray, is ready to do anything for Nick, from beta reading his fan-fic to making sure he gets to school on time — anything, that is, except acknowledge their feelings for each other. At school, they hang out with Gibby, a Black self-described “baby dyke,” and her cheerleader girlfriend, Jazz, both mouthy and critical without being condescending. Then there is Owen, who lurks in the background but once was Nick’s almost-boyfriend.
Together Nick and Seth are feeling their way toward self-acceptance and adult relationships, despite the meant-to-be-helpful advice of their loving parents. (Okay, as in many YA books, most of the parents are dead. Nick has a father, and Seth an aunt and uncle. Happily, none of them ever question their offsprings’ orientation.) Their romance is hilarious and tormented, weird and completely normal, and unfolds as the real Extraordinaries Shadow Star and Pyro Storm become increasingly violent in their attempts to bring justice to the city.