You know a book is going to be good when its opening line mentions M&Ms.
Okay, so that doesn’t happen very often….Actually, it never happens unless you happen to be reading Unexpected Superhero by Kitty Bucholtz.
Unexpected Superhero is the kind of novel that defies being shoved into a specific genre. But, for explanatory purposes, I’m going to try and give you an idea of what genres it might go into. Wish me luck.
It’s kind of urban fantasy because it’s set in a big city and blends normal with not-so-normal (as in, superheroes fighting supervillains) events. But, unlike most urban fantasies, there are no blood-sucking creatures (a plus, in my opinion) or aliens.
It’s definitely in the superhero genre because…well, just read the title.
You might say it’s a romantic comedy because it’s got some romance and it is very, very funny. However, the story involves blown up cars and genetic experiments. Last I checked, those don’t usually coincide with the rom-com genre.
See. I told you this book doesn’t fit well in any particular genre. Kitty Bucholtz explained the novel type pretty well in my interview with her here, so you might want to check that out.
If any of the above genres interest you at all, then sit tight and get ready for the storyline.
Are you ready? You sure? Okay, here we go:
Normal is good. That is what Tori Lewis (now Tori Clarke) was told while growing up. In fact, normal was such a priority that she was put on meds and sent to a psychiatrist every week to keep her weird from showing. Exactly what her “weird” was, Tori had no idea. Up until she married Joe Clarke, stopped seeing her shrink, and got off her meds, she can’t remember ever having done anything out of the ordinary.
But that all changes when she walks into the middle of an armed robbery. She just wanted some M&M’s, but she ends up walking away from the scene after disarming the robber…simply by ordering him to put the gun down. A bystander accuses her of having a superpower. Her? A superhero? Pshaw. She’s just a normal person. At least that’s what she’d like to think.
Tori’s life quickly begins to spiral out of control. From a dead body being found under her work desk to an attempted mugging to the return of her slightly-creepy and possibly villainous father, Tori is forced to accept the truth: she is not normal. She never was and never will be.
But how can she tell Joe that? He thought he was marrying a normal girl when he just recently took her as his wife. What if he doesn’t want to be married to a superhero?
Meanwhile, Joe Clarke’s life is getting more complicated by the second. He knew that he should have told Tori he was a superhero from the start, but her family put so much store by being normal. What if she shares her parent’s anti-superhero views? He puts off telling her, hoping to find the perfect opportunity. But Joe’s in the middle of investigating the disappearance of several children and the death of an executive who showed up under the desk of a part-time employee…a part-time employee who also happens to be his wife. It’s not like perfect opportunities are popping up all over the place.
The truth has to come out eventually. Unfortunately for these two newlyweds, it comes out in a less than desirable way, surrounded by not-so-pleasant events like a massive argument, the kidnapping of a beloved nephew, and the uncovering of a nefarious plot put in motion by a circle of supervillains.
Unexpected Superhero is written with an awesome sense of humor. And it gets bonus points for being littered with nerd references. Super cool family relationships were featured throughout the book, from Tori’s love for her sister, to Joe’s close-knit superhero family, setting Unexpected Superhero apart from most novels. The character’s Christian faith also slipped in very beautifully without being preachy, another unusual quality among most modern books.
Now I don’t usually read urban fantasy, rom-coms are not really my thing, and this is the first superhero book I have ever read. I know, how boring am I? That being said, it’s a bit difficult for me to write a review because I have no way to measure Unexpected Superhero against other books. Plus, the main characters in this novel were a married couple and, not being married, I’m not very knowledgeable in that area, either.
So I’m just going off of my personal preferences when I say that I saw Tori and Joe’s behavior as kind of ridiculous. If they had just told each other of their powers from the start, most of their problems would have been resolved much more quickly. But then I guess there would have been no character arc, not very high stakes, and thus no novel. So I see why there was so much secrecy between them, but it still made me want to slap some sense into both Joe and Tori.
Except, of course, they’re book characters, so that’s not really possible. But they were real enough to make me upset with them, which, oddly enough, I almost see as a positive thing because it’s the sign of good writing.
Overall, a hilarious, well-written book with sometimes-irritating-but-lifelike-characters, good messages, and a surprisingly layered storyline. If you’re a fan of superheroes and like books that leave you with both something to think about and something to laugh about, then Unexpected Superhero is for you.
If you want to get an idea of Kitty Bucholtz’s writing style and trademark sense of humor, then go check out this interview I did with her here. It’ll give you a glimpse into her writing and publication process too, so if you happen to be a writer, then this interview is worth the read.
Hannah Heath – bookworm and aspiring author