The Extraordinaries | T.J. Klune


The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune

Tor Teen, 2020, 400 pages

Trigger Warnings: Death of a parent (off-page), some violence

About the Author: “T.J. Klune is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, T.J. believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.” (Bio taken from author’s website.)

Author’s Website:

Twitter: @tjklune

Instagram: @tjklunebooks

Hashtags: #TheExtraordinaries #torteen #tjklune #klunatics

“But that doesn’t mean that you still can’t be a good person, right? Just because you did something wrong doesn’t mean that’s who you are.”

In Nick Bell’s world, heroes and villains alike with superpowers are called Extraordinaries—and Nova City has two of them: a hero named Shadow Star and a villain named Pyro Storm. Nick is an awkward sixteen-year-old boy with ADHD and a massive Shadow Star obsession. After Shadow Star saves Nick and his friend from imminent danger, he’s determined to transform himself into an Extraordinary, too.

The Extraordinaries is an extraordinarily fun read full of superheroes, queer romance, and coming-of-age themes. Nick is a very relatable character, even if you aren’t personally a neurodivergent teenage boy, and especially if you’ve ever been a part of any kind of fandom-space. Though not as focused on fandom as the synopsis initially had me believe, I found that this was one of the most accurate portrayals of “fan life” that I’ve ever read—down to the formatting of the excerpts of Nick’s fanfic. Beyond that, Nick’s rambling and inner-monologues offer plenty of secondhand embarrassment and adolescent relatability that will have you simultaneously laughing and cringing. For the first installment in a series, there’s just the right amount of exposition and world-building. And though somewhat predictable in plot, it’s easily overlooked considering the formulaic nature of superhero stories.

Overall, The Extraordinaries is an enjoyable summer read, but I would be remiss if I ignored the portrayal of police in the novel. Given the recent attention to America’s long-standing police brutality problem in the name of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans, it’s unsettling to read a YA novel that glosses over the racism so deeply embedded in our criminal justice system. Consider Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and the role that the police play in that novel as opposed to the valorization of the police in The Extraordinaries, which is written by a white man. Thomas’s novel is balanced, offering different perspectives and subsequently allowing readers to see the layers and complexities of an unjust police system. 

Understandably, the narration from Nick’s point of view is not going to cast the police in a negative light since his father is a cop, but I wonder what the novel could have been like had Klune ventured to explore the nature of police in our world in conversation with a coming-of-age superhero story. Given the slow nature of publishing, Klune’s book was probably written long before the events of 2020, but police brutality has always been a prevailing issue whether or not it’s in the news cycle. While it’s not every author’s job to address social issues in their work, these decisions potentially contribute to perpetuating ideology, nonetheless.

PRR Writer, Caroline Ross

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