I just finished The Extraordinaries by T. J. Klune. As always, Klune creates quirky characters that reflect the individuality encompassing our reality. Even amidst the backdrop of a fantastic world, his characters are always grounded and relatable, making the world which they live within feel real.
The Extraordinaries takes place in Nova City, where humans with superpowers can exist. Nick, the protagonist, is desperately in love with Shadowstar, the hero in Nova City. He writes fan fiction about Shadowstar and his rival, the villain Firestorm.
Nick also happens to be gay and have ADHD.
It’s not my typical genre, superheroes, and it’s YA, but this 40-something enjoyed it. Klune has this ability to create realistic, endearing characters that are realistic. Since discovering Klune, I’ve become obsessed with his books. Each is unique and leaves an imprint on me.
Reading The Extraordinaries, I constantly had the thought that my 10-year-old will love this book in a couple of years. My kid is on the spectrum and also has ADHD. So much of what I see in Nick relates to what I see in my kid. I can’t wait to hand him this book, and have him discover a world where a guy with ADHD is the main character, and is a fully-realized character. Representation is important, especially for those of us in marginalized communities, where we are not often seen as whole, capable beings.
But it occurred to me at some point, that this book will likely be deemed inappropriate in many schools across the US. This wonderful piece of YA literature, representing several identities, is soon to be considered inappropriate reading material, and possibly even porn, and banned from schools, even public libraries.
A hate group out of Florida called the Moms for Liberty have spewed their mission of intolerance and discrimination across the country. A far-right super pack in Florida funds the group, giving it a platform. Here in Iowa, our governor is in league with MFL, and they are on the hunt. The goal is to demonize LGBTQ people, attempting to erase them through hateful, discriminatory legislation, and regurgitating its bile, trying to convince citizens that LGBTQ people are evil and the root of all our problems.
Klune has crafted a beautiful world, where good and evil aren’t always what they seem. A lesson we have yet to learn in reality. All his characters in this novel land on the LGBTQ spectrum, representing a diverse collective of identities, striving to reflect our real-world. It’s a superhero story; a story about personal discoveries; it’s a coming-of-age story; it speaks to loss and grief and love; it’s a good versus evil narrative, pondering who is really good and evil, and deconstructing whether either really exist. It’s a novel that can speak to all teens, whether they identify as LGBTQ or not, because it speaks to the reality living as a teen in our world. It’s a book I intend to put in the hands of my tween once he’s a full-fledged teen.
And it’s a book many hope to ban, simply because it represents Queer identities not considered the “norm.”
It’s a sad reality we live in right now. But whether a teen or old person, like me, I highly recommend this book and every other Klune book. He’s a master story-teller, and his ability to create specific details is how his fantasy worlds breathe.