With the growing success of the super hero genre in cinema and in broadcast media, stories of wind-blown capes and extraordinary abilities, apocalypses and advanced intergalactic civilizations have unsurprisingly made the leap to the top of current lists of bestselling literature.
Here are titles that have taken familiar ideas of super-powered beings and given them new literary life:
V is for Villain, by Peter Moore, while not completely original, brings something a bit more fresh than the usual fare. Brad Baron stands out from the other teens at his high school, not because of his genius-level intellect, but because the average teenager at his school is endowed with some form of superpower (ability to fly, super-strength, you get the idea). On the opposite scale from his brother who is the epitome of a superhero (super-strong, flies, ridiculously handsome, not too bright), Brad feels almost human… until he meets Layla, who shows Brad that while he may not have the typical superhero abilities, what he does have could be just as powerful… and so NOT heroic.
Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson, is a shiny new addition to the superhero genre, the first in The Reckoners series. Sanderson is known for writing fresh exciting stories with characters you really become invested in, and there is always more to his narrative than what lies on the surface. In the near future, a mysterious event called Calamity causes some people to develop superhuman abilities which instead of inspiring them to be heroic, unfailingly corrupts them, turning all these powered beings into tyrants and dictators. David, a human teenager, burns with the need to avenge the death of his father at the hands of the indestructible Epic known as Steelheart. All Epics have a weakness, and David, who witnessed his father’s death, may have seen Steelheart’s, if he could only figure it out…
In the Mistborn Trilogy, another excellent series by Brandon Sanderson, people gain access to superhuman abilities by “burning” different types of metal they’ve ingested. For example, steel allows them to push and pull against metal objects, giving them the ability to leap and soar, while tin sharpens all the senses a hundred-fold. Vin, a young girl from the streets, is one of these people, a rare legendary type of Allomancer called a Mistborn. Read a full review here.
Dark Star, by Bethany Frenette, begins as a typical superhero tale, then *BOOM* there go the tights and knickers. Audrey Whitticomb has always assumed that her mother, the famous superhero Morning Star, was out fighting crime at night. Then come the life-shattering discoveries, that what her mother has actually been fighting is so much worse than just bad guys and supervillains, that her mother isn’t actually a superhero, she’s something else, and that Audrey’s own growing powers have a purpose for which she could never have been prepared for.
Burn Bright, sequel to Dark Star, is also available.
In the futuristic world of Icons, by Margaret Stohl, extraterrestrial monolithic structures enslaved the world in a day, arriving on Earth to release a pulse of energy that killed millions instantly and shut down all electrical technology. No one is immune to this deadly pulse, at least that’s what everyone assumes, but Dol remembers the day the Icons arrived because she was in the blast zone, a toddler as she watched her parents die like a switch going off in their heads *click* and the light was gone from their eyes. There might be others like her, other Icon Children who cannot be controlled by that alien energy, but the Icons are hunting them, because their immunity is only the least of their potential…
Idols, sequel to Icons, is also available.
The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken, poses the question: What if the apocalypse has come… and it’s wearing the face of your child? In a not too distant future, a mysterious disease has killed most of the children in America. Those that survived are different, with terrifying abilities that forced the government to round them up to live in “rehabilitation camps.” Sixteen-year-old Ruby has been incarcerated in the worse camp of them all since she was just ten, but when she’s offered the chance to escape she takes it, sending her on the run with people who have an agenda of their own. And they’re not afraid to use children to get what they want.
Never Fade, sequel to The Darkest Minds, is also available.
Poison Princess, by Kresley Cole, first volume of the Arcana Chronicles, is a smidge more dark and mature than your typical teen dystopian novel, but it’s undeniably suspenseful, with intriguing paranormal elements. A global cataclysm rocks the world proving that the visions Evie's suffered are not delusions. Armageddon is only the beginning as she and twenty-one other teens are being called to fill roles that have been played out throughout the course of time immemorial, those of the Major Arcana, each one of them vying for superiority over the others in a supernatural Hunger Games that will leave no survivors except one. As Evie’s poisonous abilities as the Empress grow, so do her visions of one who has won more games than any other, the immortal youth who has loved her, and killed her, over and over in their past incarnations: the Major Arcana called Death.
Endless Knight, sequel to Poison Princess, is also available.
Starcrossed, the first in a series by Josephine Angelini, reminds me of the Percy Jackson series in that it takes the threads of classic Greek mythology and weaves them into something contemporary. Sixteen-year-old Helen Hamilton has always tried to hide herself, not the easiest when you’re too tall, too strong, too fast, with a presence that attracts unwanted attention. Being a wallflower becomes even more difficult when the things from her nightmares spill out into the waking world, strange women only she can see hound her steps, and the members of a new family in town act like they know her, especially Lucas, too tall, too strong, too fast, with that familiar otherworldly presence. Someone might even call him a Greek god, but the truth… the truth may not be too far off.
Also available is Dreamless, sequel to Starcrossed, continuing Helen's story which concludes in Goddess.
Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and get a copy today!