Title: Secondhand Origin Stories
Author: Lee Blauersouth
Publication: March 15th 2018 by Createspace Independent Publishing
Source: Author via blog tour (thank you Lee Blauersouth and Shealea @ That Bookshelf Bitch!)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Other classifications: LGBTQIA, Young Adult
Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.
But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?
I received a review copy from the author which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.
Welcome to one of the stops on the second day of the #SHOSPH Blog Tour!
Heavily character-driven, Lee Blauersouth’s Secondhand Origin Stories is less a superhero novel and more a novel about a dysfunctional family of superheroes. And that makes for a more compelling narrative.
The book follows four teens; each having something to prove, all wanting to protect their family. There is Opal, who has always dreamed of becoming a superhero and joining the Sentinels. Issac, who has been developing secret but positively illegal brain-altering nanites to save a family member. Yael, who has been training for the life of a superhero for as long as xe can remember. Except the past, an inheritance xe has no control over, keeps resurfacing and threatening that future. And Jamie, who will always support her siblings no matter what. But can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed? One of the things I love about Secondhand Origin Stories is that even though it has an ensemble cast, the author does a fantastic job of shining a spotlight on the individual characters. And that is no easy task. You feel for the characters. They are complex and flawed and you root for them.
“Xe stepped towards him. His knees bent as if to step back, but he held his ground. He was a hero. Which meant Yael had to be something else.”
It is quite hard to miss out the amount of thoughtful nuances that went into writing this story. It is timely, gripping, and emotionally resonant. Each character has a distinct voice, and although the novel is told in third-person, the shifts are seamless and at times even smart. For instance, there is a confrontation between Issac, Jamie, and their mom, and it unfolds in such a way that the reader views it from Opal’s POV. And I think that is brilliant, because it strips down the scene to its barest form. It also shows that Opal is an outsider. Which is another aspect of the book I appreciate: it does not shy away from the struggles of its characters. You join Yael as xe makes peace with who xe is and who xe wants to become. You are there as Opal wrestles with the reality of her dreams. As Jamie tries to reconnect with her dad. And as Issac reevaluates what he believes in and how much he is willing to fight for them. I am a sucker for family drama, and Secondhand Origin Stories certainly delivers. It could have easily fit in the CW lineup.
“We can’t always save everyone.”
I could not stress this more: we still need diverse books. There are still not nearly enough diverse stories by and about people from diverse experiences out there, and that is why I am stoked for Blauersouth’s book and what it adds to the conversation. Secondhand Origin Stories has representations on gender, sexuality, race, and disability. It touches on systemic racism and the insidious ways marginalization works. There is one scene where a black character finds herself faced with uniformed men and she gets anxious, not without reasons, and is suddenly “hyper-aware of her skin, dark enough to paint a target on her.” And it is these little details that really leave the most impact, for me at least.
“There was something about queer kids that made them seem to cluster together, without even meaning to. Without even knowing. It was something she’d learned to trust.”
Perhaps it has a slow start and perhaps it is a bit unpolished, but this novel is self-published y’all! I can only imagine what Blauersouth can accomplish with the backing of an established publisher.
For superhero film buffs who want well-written character arcs. Go grab yourself a copy of Secondhand Origin Stories!
After about a decade of drawing comics independently or with small presses, Lee started writing prose out of a combination of peer pressure and spite, then continued out of attachment to their favorite made-up people. They live in Minnesota even though it is clearly not a habitat humans were ever meant to endure, with their lovely wife/editor, the world’s most perfect baby, and books in every room of the house.
If you like categories, they’re an ENFJ Slytherin Leo. If you’re looking for demographics they’re an agender bisexual with a couple of disabilities. If you’re into lists of likes: Lee loves comics, classical art, round animals, tattoos, opera, ogling the shiner sciences, and queer stuff.
Check out the rest of the tour stops!
Secondhand Origin Stories blog tour launch
Feature post from The Backwards Bookshelf
Feature post from Candid Ceillie
Review from The Backwards Bookshelf
Review from Crimson Blogs
Review from Samantha House
Review from Stuffed Shelves
Excerpt from Not Just Fiction
Excerpt from Utopia State of Mind
Feature post from Unputdownable Books
Review from That Bookshelf Bitch
Review from Cliste Bella
Review from wallflower’s plight
Excerpt from Provocatrix
Review from Bookish Wanderess
Review from bookishwisps
Review from Flying Paperbacks
Review from TheHufflepuffNerdette
Review from My Reading List
Review from Unputdownable Books
Author interview on That Bookshelf Bitch
Feature post from Cliste Bella
Review from Afire Pages
Review from The Book Maiden
Review from The Little Miss Bookworm
Review from Reader Fox and a Box of Books
Review from The Youngvamp’s Haven
Question: are you Team Plot-Driven or Team Character-Driven? And have you heard about Secondhand Origin Stories before today? Would you be picking it up anytime soon? Sound off in the comments below!