Title: Overpowered

Author: Mark H. Kruger

Nica has grown up with her journalist mother, moving from country to country as her mother’s job moves them. But when her mom lands a spot in Antarctica, Nica is sent to Barrington, Colorodo—the “safest” town in the country. The most boring, old-town-America kind of place that even has a curfew. But something is going on in this town. Pulses of weird energy light up the night. And Nica and others find themselves reacting in strange ways . . .

I liked the idea, but the execution of this is terrible on multiple levels.

First, the science. The pulses are explained as EMPs which causes genetic mutations which gave some people powers (and a lot of people bad moods). Except aliens would have made a lot more sense, because the EMP is not behaving like an actual EMP. Electromagnetic pulses of the power level described would not only have knocked out the cell system in Barrington, they would have killed everything electronic. Computers. Cars. Televisions. Microwaves. Nothing would have worked at ALL. And it wouldn’t have come back after the pulse stopped because the nature of an EMP totally fries the circuitry. It should be the equivalent of an attack that throws everyone back into a pre-technological society (see books like Rick Yancy’s The Fifth Wave to get some idea how this would actually play out as an actual EMP is one of the waves).  Mystical green alien energy rays could have neatly avoided this. It also would have avoided the frankly painful explanation of how  electromagnetic light-bending can make someone invisible (because genetic powers apparently also work on the clothes you’re wearing).

Second, Nica might as well have come from Pennsylvania or Wyoming for all the difference her world-hopping makes to her character. She thinks, talks, and acts like an American. There’s one nice moment when she reflects on the oddity of throwing a birthday party, because everyone else in the world tends to be a lot poorer, but who she says she is doesn’t match who she actually is. She doesn’t have any weird habits picked up from other cultures (no, the kickboxing breathing-exercise doesn’t count…. she could’ve learned kickboxing in America and gotten the same result). She doesn’t have an accent or any odd turns of phrase. She doesn’t even appear to be multilingual to the slightest degree. She isn’t comparing her new school to the other schools she’s been in except for a few slight nods to Thailand. I could go on, but Nica comes across as someone who tells you one thing but behaves totally differently.

Third, the relationships (most especially the romance) is pretty painful to watch. I’m already not a fan of the instant attraction Nica has to Jackson, the resident bad boy. Or the way Nica tends to describe every character by how physically attractive they are. I liked her friendship with Oliver best because it was simply a friendship and not her constantly rating him on his boyfriend potential. Although this also goes back to the whole not-matching-her-history problem, as Nica has supposedly jumped around to 19 different schools, yet has no problems forming friendships. Even losing her old friend in Thailand minimally affects her because they can text a bit. Frankly, I would expect Nica to be at least a little emotionally scarred by those kinds of experiences and either reluctant to try to make new friends or reluctant to throw herself wholeheartedly into relationships, because she ought to think given her life that nothing is stable. (And I’d prefer to forget about the spying-on-you-naked-in-the-shower scene. Peeping is peeping no matter who’s doing it; not to mention the scene only appears to exist to further allow Nica to expand on Jackson’s physical attractiveness).

The mystery plays out okay, although to anyone who’s half-awake it should be obvious who’s driving the conspiracy within the first few chapters. I still wish it had been aliens. Aliens could’ve given this a much-needed boost, although it still wouldn’t have saved Nica’s character. This is clearly setting up to be a series but I have no interest in any further books. I rate this book Not Recommended.


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