Episode 5 of Far from Normal: a Rage Brigade & Supernormal Team-Up by Karen Eisenbrey and LeeAnn McLennan
Episode 3 of Far from Normal: a Rage Brigade & Supernormal Team-Up by Karen Eisenbrey and LeeAnn McLennan
Episode 2 of Far from Normal: a Rage Brigade & Supernormal Team-Up by Karen Eisenbrey and LeeAnn McLennan
The first serial installment of Far from Normal, a Rage Brigade & Supernormal Team-Up novella by Karen Eisenbrey and LeeAnn McLennan
How and why did two authors of YA superhero novels collaborate on a team-up?
Naming a band is an act of concentrated creative expression. Square Pig in a Round Hole exists to reward five favorite band names each week. Winners are (usually) listed alphabetically. … Continue reading Square Pig in a Round Hole-May 14, 2022
Emerge, the third book of this trilogy, turns up the heat on main character Olivia Woodson Brighthall. In book 1 Dormant, she belatedly manifested the supernormal abilities she had rejected as a child after the death of her mother and began training with her cousins to hunt monsters and fight bad guys. In book 2 Root she grew in skill and confidence and embarked on a road trip with her cousins (and normal friend Anna) to rescue her friend Ben from the terrorist organization Mountain of Ash that killed her mother and brainwashed her cousin Emma into joining them. Book 3 finds Olivia in the Ashers’ clutches, far from home, her powers suppressed, and only alive because the head terrorist wants her blood to make an enhancement serum.
The suspense never lets up in this volume. Olivia endures torture in the form of altered memories as the villain seeks to power up her blood. Escape attempts are foiled as Olivia and her friends gradually learn what Mountain of Ash has in mind for the inferior normals of the world, and for the supernormals who seek to protect them. It’s a nice touch that Olivia agrees with Mountain of Ash on one point: supernormals should be able to use their powers openly. She does not agree with their cruel, destructive methods and is hurt when friends seem to go over to the dark side. Although the final battle is a pulse-pounding shocker with terrible losses, the book pulls off a poignant but hopeful ending.
If you don’t find it on the shelves of your favorite independent bookstore, ask them to order it for you, or purchase online here:
Get it at Barnes & Noble HERE. They support indie authors and have hosted Not a Pipe Publishing’s signings at multiple locations.
Get it on Amazon HERE.
Get it at Powell’s HERE.
Book 2: Root picks up 6 months after the events of Book 1: Dormant (read my review here), in which Olivia Woodson developed the supernormal abilities she’d been suppressing since childhood, in time to help defeat a rogue supernormal cousin who had joined a terrorist organization. That cousin is in prison, but the rest of the Brighthall cousins are kept busy by an influx of monsters, many of them rarely if ever found in Portland, OR. And Olivia is having visions of her cousin breaking out of prison, but that’s impossible: supernormals don’t have visions.
Olivia is equal parts appealing and exasperating, for the same reason: she thinks like a teenager. She makes bad decisions for good reasons and continually finds herself in trouble with authority figures, usually because she’s trying to stay out of trouble. For example, she keeps her visions to herself because she’s sure she knows how the adults will react and she’d rather not go there. With good reason: more than one of these super-powered adults is dealing poorly with past trauma and tends to blow up at the nearest target. Young readers might miss that aspect of the story, but I found it compelling and moving. Olivia’s normal father has processed his grief over her mother’s death much better that her supernormal aunts and uncles, who aren’t used to needing help. Olivia’s secret strength may be her connection to the normal world, so I was pleased to see her make an effort to maintain relationships with her normal friends.
Although there’s some “sequel syndrome” here, having to re-introduce characters and situations, it is lessened by the introduction of a host of peculiar, goofy, gross, and/or terrifying monsters, such as a vampire-like thing that feeds on human lymphatic fluid. There were almost too many for me to keep track of, but that may have been the point; I think Olivia felt the same way.
Meanwhile, Olivia harbors warm feelings for another young supernormal, but he’s locked up and in a medically-induced coma to suppress his mindreading ability. When he’s released to help track the escaped prisoners, Olivia makes additional ill-advised but well-intentioned choices that lead to a road trip, a ghost town, grave peril, and a cliffhanger ending. There better be a Book 3!
I was predisposed to like this story of a reluctant teen superhero in the Pacific Northwest; it’s my sub-sub-genre, too. McLennan delivers the goods with a relatable young protagonist in a recognizable real-life setting. Dormant provides a nice twist on the origin story, too: rather than being surprised by the sudden advent of powers, Olivia has known about them her whole life and doesn’t want them.
Who wouldn’t want superpowers? But 14-year-old Olivia has good reason. Descended from a long line of “supernormals,” as a child she witnessed her mother’s death in action and blames herself. She rejected her powers and that side of her family, suppressing abilities that should have manifested when she was 13. When a bank robbery compels her to use her abilities, Olivia is drawn back to the “family business” and begins training with her cousins to learn to control her powers and help protect the city of Portland from supernormal bad guys and monsters. (I really loved that her superteam is a group of cousins, a special kind of friend-relative that everyone should have a bunch of to grow up with.) When more than one local landmark is violently destroyed in her presence, Olivia and her family begin to wonder if she’s turning into a villain herself, unconsciously using powers when upset or angry. Meanwhile, she’s trying to keep up her old normal life of school, friends, and boyfriend while avoiding a mean girl who has it in for her; but the universe—and her aunt and uncles—have other ideas. Plenty of action–and humor–keep this from devolving into an angsty-teen emo-fest.
For someone who spends most of the book rejecting or suppressing her powers, Olivia takes great delight in using them. She knows deep down that this is who she is and what she does. I especially liked those scenes, which showed she was still capable of joy. Although she had good reason for turning away from that identity, embracing it seems like her one hope for healing from her early trauma. By the end of Book 1, she has endured more than one tragedy, but has excellent motivation for training and using her abilities. Book 2, Root, comes out in June. Read Book 1 now so you’re ready.