“Well, do you feel ready?”
“No. But that won’t stop me.”
Title: Secondhand Origin Stories
Series: Second Sentinels, Book 1
Author: Lee Blauersouth
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publication: Createspace Independent Publishing, 15 March 2018
Read: April 2018
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?
– My Thoughts –
Here we go. I honestly don’t know where to start — there are too many great things going on in this book.
First, let me introduce you to the squad.
Opal Flynn. A black altered girl from Detroit whose dream is to go to Chicago and become a superhero. She has a sort of built-in Christmas lights on her skin that lights up according to the color of her feeling, and she’s strong, man! I like Opal because, as Capricorn says it, she has grit. She’s a tough one and once she puts her mind to something, she does everything to achieve her goal. I kind of pity her though, the girl just wants to do some good and she unexpectedly found herself caught in a huge superhero family drama. She also reads and loves the smell of books!
Jamie Tillman-Voss. The younger daughter of the leader of the Sentinels, Lodestar. Despite being a child of a well-known altered superhero, Jamie doesn’t have a trace of altered-ness in her genes. She’s cool, though, and runs a book club with other altered kids. She’s the youngest (in most ways) in the squad and also the loveliest. I really saw her as a kid at first, at least until she stood up against her mother and cited a law to prove her point. I’d really love to say more about Jamie about it’s hard without spoiling anything but let’s just say that she is a such a precious gem that must be protected at all costs (a thing that Yael totally understands, I believe).
Issac Tillman-Voss. Jamie’s older brother. Like Jamie, he doesn’t have altered genes. But has a great and brilliant mind, and has multiple patents under his name, and he’s not even 18! Due to a devastating incident, Issac was rendered deaf, and for the most part of the book, we see him greatly struggle with it. That he thinks people around him think less of him because of his condition doesn’t help either. Being robbed of something you’ve had since you were born is something that will take a lot of time and support from the people around you to adjust to. Although Issac got a little bit of a rocky start, he got there. I also like that he has this desire for his genius to create a huge positive impact on the world, however naive he is and clouded his judgment might be. But don’t we all?
Yael Meade. You’ll love Jamie because you’ll see her as this little thing that must be cherished and hugged and stuff but Yael is like the big sibling that always got your back and you respect and love big time! Xe reminds me of Brienne of Tarth. But xe also owns these delicate and fluffy creatures called hamsters so, xe may look like a big tough one on the outside but is also a softie inside. Xe probably is, given that xe cares a lot about xyr siblings and if you hurt them, xe will 110% get back at you for it. Ask Opal, she learned it the hard way. It’s one of the reasons why I love xyr so much. And oh, did I mention that shapeshifting is ONE of xyr powers? Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, no doubt, no doubt, no doubt.
And Martin. I’d like to think of Martin as the fifth member of the squad. For a synthetic intelligence, they have gotten very well at getting acquainted with people. I enjoy their every conversation with the members of the squad, and Opal is not wrong when she said that they could pass the Turing test. They’re like a little baby Jarvis, really.
Now that we know them, let’s move on.
The story is set in the future where some people’s genes were experimented on and altered to create abilities — bioluminescence, strength, shape-shifting, and electricity, among others; and where superhero teams are real, alive, and kicking criminals.
Yes, this book is about superheroes, but they’re battling with more than just good guys beating bad guys. I assure you that there are bad guys, and there are some pretty major fight scenes. But more importantly, it also brings light to several real-life issues.
One of Opal’s main reasons for being a superhero is to do something for people like her dad — in jail, serving time for using his powers in helping other people illegally (apparently!), and people inside are not really in the best of conditions. People in racial minorities are more likely to serve longer time and imprisoned for charges way worse than necessary. Same goes for the altereds. And the government agency overseeing all these, is the same agency the superheroes are reporting to. Just like the present times, eh?
There’s also this bit of homophobia when Bridgewater told Yael to stop ‘flip-flopping genders’ as xe pleases because it is ‘ridiculous and offensive’. Some statement there from someone running a bureau that doesn’t really care about the well-being of altereds. And at that moment I wanted to strangle him, Heavenly Rule line or not.
Issac may also be seen as an ableist when he insisted to think that he is basically useless and can’t function properly without his hearing. Personally, though, I believe he had this thinking because everyone was acting weird around him, and that’s what he thinks the reason is. But it’s also possible that he’s projecting his feelings to them. Although Issac was able to sort this out as the story progressed, he really did had a hard time with this during the first few days after the incident.
At the top of the Altered Persons Bureau in Chicago, lived three (or four) of our squad with their family, the Sentinels — Melissa, Neil (LodeStar), Drew (Capricorn), Solomon (Helix) and formerly Jenna (Bion). And let me tell you when it comes to family problems, superhero families are no different than normal ones. There can be gaps between the members, communication problems, misunderstanding, and sometimes things can get intense pretty quickly because of, well uhm, physical abilities. They also have family sleepovers!! Cute, and it humanizes them!
A couple of things I would like to add before I wrap-up this review:
I really love this meta moment between Bridgewater and Yael when he told xyr this:
We are the science fiction of former decades. They wrote about us long before we existed. When I came into the outside world, I knew enough to find out how they saw us. Dating back before our founders were born, I could find us in stories. Always the same. Gods, or monstrosities. We are Superman, or we are Frankenstein’s monster. And half the time, even if we would be Superman, we end up monsters anyway.
(Although, right after that he dropped the homophobic remark to Yael so I hated him again.)
And superheroes love pizza too!
“I think today goes into my top five for worst days. Whew.”
“I’m going to rank it as number two,” Jamie agreed.
“Guys, I need pizza,” Opal contributed.
The thought of pizza was like the sun bursting through storm clouds. “God, yes.” Yael agreed fervently. Xe hadn’t eaten today.
And Yael has a pizza shirt with a saying that we should all live by!
Xe was wearing a t-shirt declaring that “every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself”.
These words from Opal’s cousin Aldis about being able to be a hero, without being a superhero.
And, since I got the choice, I’d rather help people without having to hurt anybody else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’ve got superheroes. But if I can run the rest of my life without violence, I’m going to. A superhero can defend the world from supervillains, but somebody’s still got to haul around furniture, create decent jobs, and look out for people in a bad situation trying to start over. There’re more problems superheroes can’t handle than ones they can.
And this beautiful moment between Yael and xyr papa (I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING!!)
Eventually, he turned to xyr. “What do I call you, then?”
“You’ve banned me from calling you my daughter. But I don’t think you want me to call you my son.”
“Oh. No. That’s…really not any better for me.”
“Then what do I call you?”
“Just call me yours.”
Lastly, villains aren’t always goons and thugs creating mayhem in the city. Sometimes (or more often than not), they are men in suits and respectable positions, lobbying harmful bills, implementing unfair policies, and benefitting from them. Looking at you, probably almost every people of power in the government!
Diverse characters, check. Awesome teenage superheroes, check. Family drama, check. Self-aware SIs that send you funny memes, check. A nod to real-life issues that we need to actually fight, check. Action yaas, CHECK!
Lee’s writing had me hooked from the very start, and they did a very great job bringing the characters to life with their words. I was just rooting for everybody until the very end and I’m very happy with how the story ended, but at the same time, I needed to know what happens after. (Cue me doing everything to get my hands on the next book!)
This book literally has everything, and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor if you read it now!
– Quotes –
It wasn’t fair that Opal felt homesick when she was still standing in her room. Pre-emptive homesickness shouldn’t be a thing.
No matter how oppressively still things inside this room had become, the rest of the world kept going.
Opal felt like she’d wandered into a horror movie and was the only one who didn’t catch the plot.
Everybody has something they need to atone for.
Xe hated all of these options. They were dangerous and terrifying, and xe couldn’t punch them.
You can’t see the betrayal right in front of you because you’re too busy seeing the betrayal you’ve always expected.
True omniscience is not attainable, and even if it were, conflicts of values would make perfect decision making impossible.
Opal thought it was more than that. 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. It helped.
How would we know? Fish don’t know they’re wet. Maybe as kids, we just didn’t notice how messed up everything was.
Y’know, it really is amazing how quickly people can turn on you, as soon as you show weakness. Right when you need them the most.
Yael hated how the membership on Yael’s mental list of who was “family” kept shifting around. Family was supposed to be forever, not change from day to day.
This world doesn’t need us. We are made useful only because we are already here, and some of us need to be fought. The public tolerates superheroes because it knows there are supervillains. But those are the only two roles available. Who you are doesn’t matter, compared to who they judge you to be. No matter how strong we are, people will rise up and fight if they see a monster. And eventually, they will win.
Do not make the last generation’s mistakes. Stop him before it is too late.
It has puns. American Sign Language has built-in puns. The sign for ‘pasteurized’ is the sign for ‘milk’ passed in front of your eyes.
They all knew this moment from every story about every hero. The moment when you decided to be a hero, or a bystander. To commit completely or walk away. Either way, she’d have consequences to answer for.
Progress without ethics was…like the plot of 50% of the science fiction he’d ever watched, read, or listened to. He knew better. But he’d wanted to help. He’d just…trusted the ethics of powerful organizations too much.
Yael knew that, really, most battle plans didn’t make it past the first engagement. They were more like optimistic outlines than anything.
I don’t want to fight you. We were both just defending someone we love. None of them will get anything out of either of us dying. We both want justice.
I told her what you said about our family. About following in everyone’s footsteps. But I think a few people around here need to get used to the idea that we don’t have performance requirements for this family.
She’d have more fights to fight, but she had a team to do it with.
– About 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.
– Blog Tour Schedule –
23 April (Monday)
- Secondhand Origin Stories blog tour launch from Shealea @ That Bookshelf Bitch
- Feature post from Kate @ The Backwards Bookshelf
- Feature post from Ceillie @ Candid Ceillie
- Review from Kate @ The Backwards Bookshelf
- Review from Crimson @ Crimson Blogs
- Review from Sam @ Samantha House
- Excerpt from Taiwo @ Stuffed Shelves
24 April (Tuesday)
- Excerpt from Charvi @ Not Just Fiction
- Excerpt from Lili @ Utopia State of Mind
- Feature post from Nandini @ Unputdownable Books
- Review from Shealea @ That Bookshelf Bitch
- Review from Shelumiel @ Bookish and Awesome
- Review from Myrth @ Cliste Bella
- Review from wallflower’s plight
25 April (Wednesday)
- Excerpt from The Nerdy Elite
- Review from BookMyHart
- Review from Ceillie @ Candid Ceillie
- Review from Faguni @ F A N N A
- Review from Jodie @ forthenovellovers
- Review from Stephanie @ Igniting Pages
- Review from Sam @ Spines In a Line
26 April (Thursday)
- Excerpt from Provocatrix
- Review from Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess
- Review from Justine @ bookishwisps
- Review from LaRonda @ Flying Paperbacks
- Review from Allie @ TheHufflepuffNerdette
- Review from Vee @ My Reading List
- Review from Nandini @ Unputdownable Books
27 April (Friday)
- Author interview on That Bookshelf Bitch
- Feature post from Myrth @ Cliste Bella
- Review from Karina @ Afire Pages
- Review from Tin The Book Maiden
- Review from Cara @ The Little Miss Bookworm (that’s me!!!)
- Review from Steff @ Reader Fox and a Box of Books
- Review from Tyv @ The Youngvamp’s Haven