“Special” by Chino Chakanga

This is a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel based on a reversed society where almost everyone has some kind of magical superpower. Most people have two or three. The thematic element focuses on a child who has no power. This allows the author to investigate in a non-threatening way what it looks and feels like to be handicapped in any society.

Hope, the main character, is a young person nearing the end of a long series of ultimately unsuccessful treatments to try to stimulate her latent superpowers. She is reaching the point where she’s ready to chuck it all, while her mother, driven by guilt because it is her genetic flaw that caused the problem, is ready to keep going forever.

The psychology and motivation of the characters is dead on, and our sympathies are directed in multiple directions, which keeps the story interesting.

The other conflict is the social situation at school, where bullying runs rampant. Hope goes through an increasing level of harassment, including the loss of her only friend to the snob group of the super gifted. Again, this is all laid out in a believable manner, making us feel even worse for the main character.

The main flaw in this story that will bother more mature readers is that there is very little world building. The author doesn’t go much further than the original premise, with no thought given to what such a society might really be like. I also felt that the incredible amount of magic doled out to everyone got in the way of a realistic portrayal of how people might act, and this undercuts the suspense. When readers know that, whatever happens, someone will have enough magical power to fix it, it’s hard to get worried about what will happen next.

But younger readers live in a simpler world and are not bothered by such sophistication.

Recommended for pre-teen SF fans.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


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