Title: Secondhand Origin Stories
Author: Lee Blauersouth
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi, Superhero Fiction
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?
Content Warnings: Homophobia, transphobia, ableism
I came across this book thanks, once again, to a tag by the ultimate enabler, Shealea. The premise was intriguing. The book was about the kids of superheroes – and not just ordinary superheroes, but diverse ones. As a Marvel fangirl who wished, time and again, that the Avengers were just a little bit less white/cishet, I couldn’t pass up on the chance to join this blog tour.
And believe you me, I didn’t regret it one bit.
Secondhand Origin Stories tells us about second-generation superheroes on both sides of the divide. We have Jamie, Issac, and Yael, who grew up seeing their parents and/or idols saving the world on television screens, who were raised in the highly-guarded Sentinel Plaza, and who trust the Altered Persons Bureau as being the ultimate good guy. On the other hand, there’s Opal, who as both a black woman and an altered faces discrimination that the “tower kids”, as she eventually comes to call them, can’t even begin to imagine. She wants to use her powers for good, but she also knows that the Altered Persons Bureau is not all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask her father, who’s in jail for “illegally” using his powers (read: he intervened in a domestic abuse situation, but because he’s not backed by an official APB-sanctioned superhero team, his actions are considered vigilantism and are punishable to the highest extent of the law).
After graduation, Opal, who inherited her super-strength and bioluminescence from her father, decides to try and join the Sentinels, the superhero group she’s admired since childhood. She has more than her dreams on the table though: she wants to try and change the APB from the inside, to get rid of the discrimination and bias and help people like her father.
She’s not alone in thinking that the Sentinels and the APB need to change. Jamie and Issac are hurting from the sudden loss of their aunt, Jenna, who was the superhero called Bion. After falling in battle, Jenna leaves the Sentinels, supposedly to recover – but it leaves Jamie and Issac with the notion that any kind of flaw is construed as weakness, and soon after that, obsolescence. Yael, meanwhile, is trying to distance himself from xyr past. As the only child of two of the greatest supervillains of all time, Yael is constantly trying to prove that xe is not them; but it’s a long struggle when xe possesses both their abilities and, as a shapeshifter, often morphs into xyr father’s figure when xe’s stressed or angry.
The four kids band together when a conspiracy when the Sentinel Plaza is attacked by an altered, and when, in the wake of that attack, a private company that creates prisons meant to hold altereds surfaces and tries to recruit Issac, a renowned supergenius, to their side. Secondhand Origin Stories is all about how a new generation of superheroes, equipped with lessons they learned from their parents’ mistakes, band together to unearth their families’ dangerous secrets, kick butt, and look badass while doing that.
The premise of the book makes it sound pretty action-packed, but to my surprise, it actually wasn’t. Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you! Secondhand Origin Stories is more character-driven than it is plot-based, but I appreciated it a lot because it made sense. The title itself tells you that this is going to tell you what makes these characters the way they are, and Lee Blauersouth delivered on that count. I found myself relating to, rooting for, and in Yael’s case falling in love with these teens who are determined to do better than their parents. Their motivations, strengths, weaknesses, foibles, fears, hopes, and dreams were all so vivid and well-written. I truly felt each character was their own person – one I’d want to meet in real life, mind you.
The book also addresses some real-world issues very nicely. In particular, it talks about the privatization of the penal system and the government’s inability to deal with crime at the grassroots level. Rather than addressing poverty, inequality, and other root causes of crime, the APB simply seeks to keep treating the symptoms, enabled by a profitable military-industrial complex that feeds off of the altered prisoners the APB has. Create a problem, sell the solution. Without giving away the plot of the book, I would just like to say that Lee addresses a lot of the questions I have about the Marvel and the DC universe.
One another thing I’d like to address. I found out that a reader DNF’d the book because they found Issac to be ableist. I agree, Issac was ableist. He describes himself as being rendered useless or worthless because he lost his hearing in the explosion at Sentinel Plaza and undergoes a possibly irreversible, incredibly dangerous operation that was almost guaranteed to not work using the nanites he invented in order to restore his hearing. However, this ableism is addressed and corrected by Opal. Nevertheless, I would not like to speak over members of the disabled community who might find this scene upsetting and/or triggering, so far be it from me to tell you what to and what not to read. I just wanted to get it out there that the ableist character in the book is called out and does better.
Honestly, this book is probably gonna make it to my favorite reads of 2018. I’m so glad I gave this chance, and I hope you do too!
Buy the book here!
Get to know the author!
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.
If you’d like to read more about this amazing book, check out the rest of the bloggers on this tour!
23 April (Monday)
- Secondhand Origin Stories blog tour launch
- Excerpt from Stuffed Shelves
- Feature post from The Backwards Bookshelf
- Feature post from Candid Ceillie
- Review from The Backwards Bookshelf
- Review from Crimson Blogs
- Review from Samantha House
24 April (Tuesday)
- Excerpt from Not Just Fiction
- Excerpt from Utopia State of Mind
- Feature post from Unputdownable Books
- Review from That Bookshelf Bitch
- Review from Bookish and Awesome
- Review from Cliste Bella
- Review from wallflower’s plight
25 April (Wednesday)
- Excerpt from BookMyHart
- Excerpt from The Nerdy Elite
- Review from Candid Ceillie
- Review from F A N N A
- Review from forthenovellovers
- Review from Igniting Pages
- Review from Spines In a Line
26 April (Thursday)
- 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
27 April (Friday)
- Author interview on That Bookshelf Bitch
- Excerpt from Afire Pages
- Feature post from Cliste Bella
- 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
Let me know if you’re planning on reading this! It’s really great and deserves all the hype, ever!