powerless codyDaniel, a Sherlock Holmes devotee but otherwise a normal twelve year old, just moved to a tiny town in Pennsylvania. Not only is he the new kid, but he’s pretty sure the kids—even the ones who seem to like him—are keeping some sort of weird secret. This is awkward, but temporary; eventually he learns that the kids in town have superpowers—flight, invisibility, releasing a nasty-smelling gas, that sort of thing. The only catch is that on each kid’s birthday, he or she will wake up with no power and no memory of ever having had a superpower. With several thirteenth birthdays coming up, powerless Daniel is recruited to look into the matter. His investigation leads him to Golden Age comic books, a cranky old man, and his own family history.

It’s a solid, entertaining, uncomplicated read. The powers and their limitations are thoroughly conceived and the characters, though not particularly deep, are believable and consistent, complete with badly-suppressed anxieties and early-adolescent awkwardness between friends of different genders. The writing dips into the sentimental at times, but it’s self-aware enough to shrug off its saccharine tendencies: “‘But, you know, that’s what being a hero is all about, right? Overcoming your fears and failures to help other people, like Johnny noble did.’ Eric smiled. ‘I know you cringe when I talk like that but it’s true.'”1 We cringe, too—but it’s okay, the book acknowledges it and gives us permission. A healthy dose of younger brother-related snark running through the book helps, too. The family history bit is somewhat overdone—think Snape and Lily Deathly Hallows revelations—but the idea that history is important and that current events were seeded seventy years before are welcome and the plot is satisfying. Generally, an enjoyable book.

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1Pp. 172-173

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Powerless

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