It’s the worst possible time to release a book that glorifies the police force – not that there was or will ever be a good time for that, for all obvious reasons – but that is, unfortunately, what TJ Klune’s The Extraordinaries does. The author has apologized for not thinking ahead and ridding the book of its propaganda, even though they had a sensitivity reader. Without the cop propaganda, The Extraordinaries would have received a B+. With it, it flounders into D territory.
It’s a shame, because were his father not a police officer whom he worships without question, teenagers could have really related to Klune’s hero. Sixteen-year-old Nick Bell is a fanfiction-writing member of the Extradordinaire fandom (basically, a Real Person Fanfiction fandom for the superheroes that live in Bell’s hometown) – writing specifically about the all-American StarShadow. Nick has a huge crush on the superhero; a growing teenager who has a loving though overweening dad, he’s still trying to figure out how to live his life in the wake of his mother’s death and deal with the anxiety and panic he’s suffering from as a result. He also happens to be the most popular writer in the ShadowStar side of the fandom.
Nick has several rivals for his affection. Seth, his friend and possibly his true love, and Owen, with whom he has a flirtatious relationship. He must figure out what real love is while training to become a member of the team he idolizes – and discovers that life on a superteam is much harder than he’d thought it might be.
The Extraordinaries would be a fine book were it about a teenager who wants to be a superhero but must live up to the high expectations of the team. But yeah – our hero’s father is a dad, he idolizes his dad and thanks to his limited point of view, is on his side when he’s accused of abuse. His father punched an arrestee who mocked his dead wife. Police brutality is not okay, and teenagers are not likely to enjoy seeing a hero excuse his dad’s actions. Worse, there is actually a police brutality joke thrown into the middle of the story by Nick. This is not cool, to say the least, and an incredibly thoughtless move on the part of the author.
The worst thing about the situation is that The Extraordinaries could have been so incredibly cool. The world-building is good. The supporting characters are unique and fun and offer representation for folks with ADHD. But as it is, the book doesn’t work.
T.J. Klune has declared their intent to change the next book in the series, promising that Nick will have a light bulb moment about police brutality and come to realize that his father isn’t always right and that such violence severely affects others. But it’s far too late to fix the premise as it stands, and too late to save The Extraordinaries.
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