- Struck by Victoria Kinnaird Release Day Review
Struck by Victoria Kinnaird Release Day ReviewHot
Superheroes are just wishful thinking.
True love doesn’t exist.
I’m not a hero.
A seventeen-year-old hacker, a group of teenage superheroes and one hell of a family secret come together to form the perfect storm.
Are you ready to get struck?
Struck is the Marvel-worthy origin story where 'The Runaways' meets 'Riverdale'. All the snark, sarcasm, awkward flirtations, and the reality of being an angry teen, wrapped up into a YA story that is all plot and substance and no filler. Oh, and a special cameo by Forever Fading Echoes, a band of Kinnaird's creation that appear in her Keswick Chronicles novels. What's not to love?
PRESENTATION AND POV
Between the cover and the inside chapter headings, the book is beautifully presented. The presentation compliments Kinnaird's unique writing style, where she manages to blend 1st and 3rd in a way that is both readable and logical. I don't think I've ever read another author who can seamlessly combine 1st person POV with 3rd, nor have a legitimate reason, and purpose, for doing so.
Kinnaird also avoids the major pitfalls of 1st person POV, that I see all too often – where you begin reading and it either takes 10% or an unbelievable self-reflection moment for us readers to discover the age, gender, name and appearance of the 1st person narrator. It's easily done, because the options are to have someone else point them out, or to have the 1st person narrator drop them in unnaturally. Ethan's natural snark and Kinnaird's skill at storytelling make this process much more natural. Ethan's “voice” is distinctly angsty teen-male, while taking less than 2% to cover his personality, looks, age, gender, and giving us forewarning about who we're going to be following through the story with one of my favourite quotes:
The plot follows a nice pace throughout, starting with Ethan's everyday life, drifting through his life as a small-town, closeted teen with issues, and then leads him into a place where he can be himself and start over. Where the members of his new team from The Lightning Project are just as unique as he is. Adam, the leader of the group, openly gay, smart and mature; K, non-binary and kick-ass; Tomas, a bit of a male slut and dreamer; Esther, the smart, sassy woman-of-colour that puts everyone in their place; Sierra, the cheeky, melodramatic one; and finally Laurel, the quiet and unassuming one who stays in the background but does her part.
Ethan is aware of expectations put on him by the world, admitting to them when discussing being in the closet, being a small town gay kid, even when Esther precedes him into a place of danger, offering another one of my favourite quotes to challenge the expected/ingrained misogyny that can be so prevalent in novels, even within the MM genre:
And yet, the story manages to do all of this without becoming lecturing or political. The novel is primarily an origin story – about how Ethan deals with becoming a teenager with superpowers, and how that changes his life. Woven throughout are the political, social and gender issues that most teens deal with as they progress into adulthood, especially if they fall anywhere outside of the white, straight, cis roadmap. These kids come together as angry misfits, but find a family with each other, and that becomes – at least, in my eyes – the secondary plot of the novel. Thirdly, we have the romance between Ethan and Adam. Two kids who have issues, baggage, and yet find something in each other that they can't find anywhere else.
When it comes to characters, there are a few that are noteworthy: Ethan, our MC; Adam, Esther, K, Tomas, Laurel and Sierra, who make up The Project team; and Jones, the Mary Poppins-esque babysitter and bodyguard. These are the mainstay characters of the novel. Then we also have the extras, who have a bearing on the novel, but who don't have as many on-page scenes; Alex, Dr and Mrs Harrison, and Ethan's parents. They all have a part to play, but I won't tell you what that is, because certain characters are spoiler-worthy.
I love Ethan as an MC. He starts off as the disillusioned hacker with a chip on his shoulder, using snark and sarcasm to get by, using the closeted school jock for some fooling around, and hiding from a world that has let him down and is full of hypocrisy. He's your typical teenager in mostly every other way, until he is Struck, then he begins to grow into someone with more maturity and awareness of not only himself but everyone around him, too.
For the most part, Ethan and Adam are the main characters, while Esther, and later K, providing the most on-page characterisation. The POV is split between Ethan, Adam and Esther; each offer their POV at one point or another, and each have a heavier bearing on the plot than some of the other characters. Yet, each character is a unique individual, who is allowed their own self-expression, their own moment to shine, and no one becomes a token member of the team. They're all equal, and Ethan learns an important lesson about himself, or life, or the project, from each member he meets.
Adam is the kickass, all-hero all-the-time, character. Yet, he's also gentle, caring, mature, and he puts others first. He's full of compassion, a little shy, and has all the makings of a smart but geeky teenager, yet is the ultimate superhero. Esther is the mother-hen of the group, strong and smart and sassy, while keeping everyone accountable for their actions. K is the deceptively quiet one, who is thinking and contemplative when quiet, but not afraid to challenge anyone if they need it. Tomas is a lover not a fighter, the one with the big personality and a big mouth, the teasing and flirty one of the group. While Sierra teases and snarks back at Tomas and Ethan equally, she and Laurel are the quietest of the group. Together, they form a whole gamut of realistic teenage traits that takes me straight back to high school, where I was the openly-gobby-one, who was secretly introverted. Ah, the good old days.
They're also realistically teenagers when it comes to the sexy stuff, too. Right from the start, Ethan implies a almost-or-actual sexual relationship with the jock at his school, then later suggested that he's got experience of some kind, though it's never explicit or in-your-face. Later, it's implied that Tomas is the reason that Jones had to give them the 'safe sex' talk, and that he's been known to have a few flings in the past. It's all out in the open, but not made into a big deal, just as it should be.
Yet, they all have their own unique way of dealing with things. Some act their age, some are your typical teenage-boy who thinks he's more mature than he really is, and some are just not interested. Like most teenagers. Tomas is a self-confessed 'love-em-and-leave-em' kind of guy. Sierra and Esther are the gag and giggle kind of girls, whenever sex comes up, while Laurel and K just roll their eyes. Ethan is his unabashedly unashamed self, making sex jokes, innuendos and teasing Adam and Esther mercilessly for their shyness towards talking about sex. Adam blushes and can't say the word 'sex' without stumbling.
They all have their unique quirks, and they all make each character more real for it. Just as the reality of Adam and Ethan eventually having sex with each other. It's not explicit. Body parts are limits to chest and sides. Kinnaird promotes safe sex with the mention of a condom, as well as Esther demanding to know they were safe about it, after. And, though it's sort-of fade-to-black, with mostly Ethan's thoughts covering the actual moment, it fitted perfectly with the characters, their personalities, and it felt important. It was a huge moment for them, and I would have felt like something was missing if it hadn't been included.
These kids are real and smart. Some are mature, some are immature *coughEthancough* and some of them are just your regular 17-18 year old's who want nothing more than to hang out, watch Netflix, and eat popcorn. They swear, they talk about sex, some of them actually have sex (off-page for the most part) just like some teenagers do. None of that detracts from or distracts from the main plot. The reality of teen lives and behaviour is woven into the characterisation of each of the team members, just as easily as their gender, identity, sexuality, and age are.
This is a story of growth, maturity, compassion, family and friendship. It starts off being about a jaded, lonely, closeted kid from a small town, and ends up being about a group of teenagers who have become a family, fighting for what they believe in, and trying to find their place in a world that doesn't always understand or accept them.
It's your Stan Lee, Marvel-comics origin story for LGBT, POC teenagers who have been discarded or ignored by society until now, but who have come together to begin an amazing new life, with incredible new powers. A Big Hero 6 of family, friendship and loyalty. While being totally unique, with clever plotting, just the right amount of snark, and with a host of characters who don't always disagree but will always be there for each other, no matter what.
“All that knowledge, all that power, and we were still a couple of kids lying in an unmade bed, hundreds of miles from home, mourning the loss of a life we’d spent every day fighting to escape from. It’s funny, isn’t it, how fate makes a mockery of us all?”