Or, as I like to think of it, A Tale Of Two Sociopaths.
In a world where people with superpowers are called ExtraOrdinaries (or EOs, for short) two brilliant college students decide that it isn’t enough to study them and try to figure out how they came to be. Eli Cardale and Victor Vale are roommates with families who are neglectful or worse, and find in each other a kindred spark of, to put it bluntly, sociopathy. Both pre-med, they think they’ve figured out what makes an EO, so decide to see if they can undergo the process themselves. It’s not a spoiler to say that they do, coming out with vastly different powers and vastly different views on what to do with them. Eli’s betrayal sends Victor to jail for a decade, and when Victor gets out, he’s hellbent on revenge.
I really enjoyed this twist on the superhero genre, especially since our main characters aren’t really good guys. My favorite character by a country mile was Mitch, and I hope the sequel explains a little of his “curse”. Personally, I thought he was a rolling badass, especially on the climactic night of the book’s narrative. I also really enjoyed Sydney, and appreciate the fact that Serena, while nuanced, was still clearly a villain. And most of all, I really liked the way the book acknowledged the different levels of sociopathy, even if it sometimes felt as if all the characters were chosen to be illustrative of the lower two levels of the D&D alignment chart.
I’m probably looking forward to reading the sequel to this more than any of VE Schwab’s other novels, but it’s definitely raised my already rather high opinion of her writing. Good, solid entertainment that leans on the darker side of morality without descending into sickening, whether violent or maudlin, tropes.