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Teenage Mutant Superhero Terrorists

Give a bunch of children a virus that gives them superhuman abilities and then train them to hate America, and what do you get? Mandy C. found out in Robison Wells’ Blackout.

Teenage Mutant Superhero Terrorists

BOOK REPORT for Blackout (Blackout #1) by Robison Wells

Cover Story: Gesundheit
BFF Charm: Yay! … And Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Yellow Alert
Bonus Factors: Superpowers
Anti-bonus Factor: Terrorism
Relationship Status: Still Waiting For The End Game

Cover Story: Gesundheit

On a micro level, that is either a whole lot of pollen or a whole lot of germs. On a macro level, I’m reminded of the Color Run and/or, oddly, a celebration on a football field. (Just me? Perhaps there’s too much football going on in my house right now.)

The Deal:

Worldwide, terrorist attacks are on the rise. It’s not outside forces that are causing havoc across America—it’s born-and-bred American teenagers who just happen to have special abilities. These special abilities are caused by a virus they were injected with as children … and the virus is spreading.

Alec, Laura and Dan are part of a sleeper-cell terrorist team and zig-zagging across the country leaving destruction and mayhem in their wake. Aubrey and Jack are two somewhat normal kids from a small town in Utah whose only bad deeds have been shoplifting (Aubrey) and being a loner (Jack). When their paths cross, the teenagers find themselves in the midst of a war. Which side they’re on, however, remains to be seen.

BFF Charm: Yay! … and Meh

Jack is a sweet, good-hearted guy who got dumped by his friends when they became popular. He’s not rich—he does janitorial work for the high school he attends to make a little extra money—and he’s not the best in his classes. He is, however, loyal and has common sense in spades. He’s definitely the kind of guy I’d want on my team were I to have to go to war.

Everyone else in the book, I can get by without. Sure, having a friend with a superpower would be awesome and probably come in handy quite often, but their lack of redeeming qualities would make me tire of their usefulness pretty quickly. Aubrey is sweet, but she’s a total pushover. She’s whiny, to boot. Laura, Alec and Dan are all self-centered and out for revenge … what for, exactly, I’m not quite sure, but they’re not really the “friend” type.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Growing up, Jack and Aubrey were pretty inseparable. They knew each other’s deepest secrets and were the best of friends. But when Aubrey started hanging out with the popular crowd, she seemed to completely forget about Jack and all that he’d meant to her for most of her life. (See? Not a nice person.) When the two are, essentially, forced back together, she’s somewhat apologetic, and Jack is quick to forgive, because he knows her and how she was before. (See? Awesome guy.) There are a few sweet moments between the two, but it’s really only the start of something more than a friendship.

Talky Talk: Yellow Alert

Blackout is told from Alec, Aubrey, Jack and Laura’s POVs. It’s interesting being in each character’s head, and Robison Wells does a good job of keeping the varying chapters from becoming confusing, but the personalities lack that special something that makes them all distinctly unique. Alec is a little more bloodthirsty, Jack is calmer, Aubrey is kind of a ninny and Laura’s vindictive, but none of these characteristics make the characters really shine.

The story itself is a bit lacking, too. We learn that these kids have been raised to be sleeper agents for some terrorist plot, and that the superpowers were caused by some sort of virus. But we never learn the how or why of any of it, really. In fact, we don’t even learn of a real enemy (other than the teenage terrorist teams) until the very last sentence of more than 400 page book. Don’t get me wrong, Wells does a great amount of worldbuilding, but the threat level hovered in the green-yellow range for the entire story, when I’m sure it was meant to be in the red.

Bonus Factor: Superpowers

The superpowers Wells has built into his story run the gamut of useless to awesome, and that makes them feel all the more like they could actually exist. Some people can alter the chemistry or brains of those around them, making themselves more appealing or changing memories as they see fit. Others are super strong, have heightened senses or can turn into The Thing-like creatures. There’s even one kid who has “hot breath”—he can boil water just by breathing on it. All of these abilities, however, come with consequences for the person who has them, which also adds to their realism. The teenagers get tired when they use their powers for too long, or have health issues that are thought to be side effects from the virus that initially caused the mutation.

Anti-bonus Factor: Terrorism

I’m really not comfortable with the idea that—at any moment—groups of people could up and decide to go on destructive sprees across the country. It’s all too real.

Casting Call:

Kyle Gallner as Alec

Imogen Poots as Laura

Tristan Wilds as Dan

Alice Englert as Aubrey

Luke Benward as Jack

Relationship Status: Still Waiting For The End Game

You had promise, Book, with your crazy stories of teenage terrorists and superhero-creating viruses. But you lost me with your lack of follow-through. If you’re going to tempt me with action and adventure, I need you to actually provide that while we’re in the middle of our time together, rather than leaving it until the very last second.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from HarperTeen. I received neither caramel apples nor money for this review. Blackout is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.