By Jeremy Scott
ARC paperback, 399 pages
2019 reprint, Turner Publishing
Thank you to Turner Publishing for sending me this book for free in exchange for my honest review.
Phillip and his family just moved to the town of Freepoint, NY, but before he can start at his new school, his dad has “the talk” with him. Only this talk isn’t about the birds and the bees – it’s about Phillip’s superpowers. Excited to find that superheroes are real and his telekinesis makes him one, Phillip is ready for a new school year in a town populated with heroes and their helpers. His excitement dims when he discovers he’s been put into the special ed class; in addition to being a telekinetic, he’s also blind. When the school announces a training competition open to all students except those with disabilities, Phillip and his classmates band together to fight for their right to compete and prove that those with disabilities are just as powerful as those without.
This was a reread for me and I enjoyed the story more the second time around!
I initially read The Ables back in 2015 (wow, that long ago!?) when Jeremy Scott (of Cinema Sins fame) first published his book. I rated the book 3 out of 5 stars – I enjoyed the characters and the mix of powers and disabilities, but added some sins *ding!* for a monologuing villain and the lack of training for the kids. That’s right, me, someone who usually dislikes the school setting and training tropes, actually wanted some training in a book about kids with powers.
The sequel, Strings, is due to be published in September, I believe and I was offered a copy for review by Turner Publishing. I gladly accepted and then set out to reread The Ables in order to refresh my memory. Turns out, I didn’t even remember where I put my copy! Thankfully, Turner had an updated ARC of The Ables which they re-released this June, and they kindly sent me one!
I do believe there have been some updates to the text, though I couldn’t give you any specifics. I can tell you that there are some illustrations now and the pages between chapters have cool geometric designs. This book is also incredibly heavy – some high-quality paper going on here!
The second time around was no different than the first when it comes to my love of the characters. Phillip and his main friend group – Henry, Bentley, Freddie, James and Donnie – are likable, funny, and flawed. Phillip especially, as the narrator, displays a lot of wisdom and positivity for a fourteen(ish) year-old boy and also manages to be a colossal idiot. He’s slow to learn some lessons, but learn them he does! (On the heels of a book about another teen boy, I much prefer the character development in this story.) I enjoyed the development of the friendship of the boys and how they learn to make use of their own and each other’s disabilities and powers to form a team.
The addition of disabilities to characters with superpowers is both engaging and realistic. In a world where people have the powers of flight, telepathy, telekinesis, weather control and everything in between, it would be impossible to think some wouldn’t also have common disabilities such as blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome. Some characters find their powers aren’t so much affected by their disability – such as Henry, who is in a wheelchair but has telepathy – and yet, due to their disability they are still placed in a special class in the school and banned from the training completion. It’s a very interesting premise.
I think the pacing flowed well too – there was a good mix of action and downtime and Phillip’s narration was easy to read.
But, as the Cinema Sins tagline says: no movie is without sin. No book is without sin either:
There aren’t a lot of female characters in this book. Now, I get that fourteen-year-old boys probably aren’t hanging out with a lot of girls, and I also don’t think every book needs to have an equal mix of genders. But the two (or three? See, so forgettable) girls in the special ed class are glossed over and not involved in the training competition. The only other present female is Phillip’s mom. I won’t go into any spoilers, but I’ve got some issues there too!
Now, for this training competition I keep mentioning. You might be thinking, “Millie, you said earlier that you wanted training in this book and that there wasn’t any but then you keep talking about training! WTF?” Ok so, there are competitions held throughout the school year where the adults in town stage crimes and the students form teams and use their powers in “real” situations in order to practice fighting crime. This is definitely some good hands-on practice – but I was curious if there was any specialized training in the classroom to help the students develop their powers. For instance, Phillip is telekinetic, but if no one teaches him how to use his powers or helps him practice, how is he supposed to do well in the competition? I definitely don’t want chapters upon chapters of classroom training and montages and that sort of thing, but I think it would have been good to know if the school provided any sort of education about the students’ various powers.
There’s not much to say about the monologuing villain – that’s a trope we’re all familiar with. It’s not even one I mind, but it’s definitely a common sin on Cinema Sins so I feel obligated to point it out. I did also wonder about the motivations of his key henchman, but it wasn’t anything that really annoyed me.
In all, this was a fantastic book and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. I know I don’t do stars on my blog anymore, but since I mentioned my prior 3-star rating, I’ll I wanted to let you know I’ve upped it to 4. I am hoping to see some more characters in the second book, maybe a lady or two, or even just other students outside the friend group.
I recommend this if:
+ You’re looking for some disability rep in your superhero novel
+ You like YA contemporary fantasy centered around a male protagonist with NO ROMANCE (that’s a yay from me, dawg)
+ You want to support the creator of Cinema Sins in his writing endeavors