Flash Fire, TJ Klune (Tor Teen 978-1250203687,$18.99, 384pp, hc) July 2021.
Before I write anything about Flash Fire, T.J. Klune’s sequel to The Extraordinaries, I need to warn that this will be a spoiler-laden review. It’s frankly impossible to write it any other way as everything in the first book so directly impacts the second. So, go read The Extraordinaries and then come back here for my thoughts about Flash Fire!
Now, on to the review…. Flash Fire opens soon after the stunning events that ended The Extraordinaries. Nick has discovered his best friend is not only an ‘‘extraordinary’’ (AKA superhero) but also the love of his life. It’s a question as to which of these things is more significant because, while the recognition of Seth as Pyro Storm is a big deal, it’s romance that Nick has on his mind every minute of the day. For readers who are not interested in a lot of thoughts from sex-obsessed teens, Flash Fire might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re fine with a lot of love folded into a rapid-fire plot that also includes all the angst involved with being a teen hero, then carry on, because you’re going to love this book.
Along with Seth and Nick’s evolving relationship, the teens and their two best friends, Jazz and Gibby, must also contend with a lot of parents learning about super heroics and not being happy about it. There is also the question of college and what to do if Gibby (who is graduating) leaves Nova City behind for Howard University. Should the group stay together with only two of them providing logistical support for Seth as he saves the day? What about the secrets Nick’s dad has been keeping about Nick’s deceased mother? What about the nefarious activities of the worst journalist in the world, Rebecca Firestone, who never misses a chance to make Seth and Nick’s lives a living hell? What about other extraordinaries in the area? Can they be trusted, or are they straight-up evil? What about Nova City’s most illustrious businessman Simon Burke (AKA Lex Luthor)? (This is not a question, Burke is totally Lex Luthor.) What is Burke up to? What does he know about Nick’s mom? Why does she want to hurt Pyro Storm??? And the biggest question of all: WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AT PROM?????
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, well, it can be. The personal conflicts between the friends and their families would be enough for any teen superhero novel, and when you toss in Nick’s ill-fated attempts at establishing Pyro Storm on social media, Seth’s inner conflict over what it means to carry a city’s safety on his shoulders ,and the whole poorly conceived (and never really established) plan to run an intelligence network to support Pyro Storm, then the fact that someone might be trying to kill one, two, or more of our heroes is a bit of overkill. A lot of drama is fun but too much drama is just…. too much drama. And honestly when someone wants you dead it seems a bit unnecessary to worry about selling T-shirts and mugs online. Klune might have benefited from pulling back a bit so his characters were not lurching from one crisis to another. How any of them managed to think about prom is beyond me.
The real super power here, and what keeps the plot from flying too high, is Klune’s determination to focus on his characters. Nick and Seth are especially sweet to spend time with, and everyone is given plenty of time to shine (even the bad guys are memorable). Nick can be frustrating, but he’s still plenty lovable, and the witty banter between all the teens is a pure pleasure to read. So hold on tight, get your snacks all squared away, and buckle up when you dive into Flash Fire. This is an adventure that waits for no reader and a story that will take you racing up through the final page.
Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website: www.colleenmondor.com.
This review and more like it in the October 2021 issue of Locus.
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