Friday, July 30, 2010

Sci-Fi Friday Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway

Way back in December 2008, when I decided I wanted to start blogging the books I was reading, the very first review I posted was for Robin Benway's Audrey, Wait! I loved that book and was totally unable to put it down, so I was excited when I saw during ALA that Benway had a new book coming out, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June. Even more exciting? It's definitely a worthy follow up to Audrey, Wait.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & JuneApril, May and June are sisters that are about as different as can be. April is serious and studious, May is more than a little goth and hates the world, and youngest sister June is bubbly and cheerful and on a mission to be Popular as they start the school year at a new school. It's been four months since their parents divorced, uprooting the girls to move to a new school with their mom while their dad takes off for Houston, Texas.

On the same day that their dad is going to leave, the sisters appear to spontaneously develop extraordinary powers. April can predict the future, May turns invisible, and June can hear people's thoughts. As far as super powers go, not the most exciting - but it's terrifying for April when she starts having visions of June at the site of an accident. And if hot-headed May gets excited or upset, body parts start disappearing at random. Only June seems adept at her power, using the shallow thoughts of teenage girls to turn them against each other and put herself in position to befriend the most popular girl in school.

As Uncle Ben says, with great power comes great responsibility - but to whom? Is it okay to use someone if it means keeping them out of a vision of a horrible accident? Is it immoral to follow your mom invisibly on her first date? What about following your little sister to a party? And just how reliable are these powers, anyway?

Growing up with sisters isn't easy under the best of circumstances - will these new abilities pull them closer together, or drive them apart?

The story alternates between the points of view of the three sisters, and I knew about two lines into May's first chapter that she and I were going to be BFFs. She's delightfully snarky and has maybe a dozen lines in the whole novel that aren't sarcastic. She's also got some serious problems, too, being the one that feels most abandoned by her dad.

I also thought youngest sister June was really interesting. How terrifying for your littlest sister to be the one who can read your mind at will! She's also determined to be popular, something neither of her sisters understand, and probably comes closest to using her powers for evil when she uses the private, catty thoughts of popular-girl Mariah's best friends to turn Mariah against them, leaving the perfect opening for June to take their place. I also really liked June's descriptions of other people's thoughts - an excited girl was glittery, while a stoned guy's brain was too smoky for her to even read. She also ends up improving her vocabulary throughout the novel, thanks to sitting next to someone who mentally practices constantly for the National Spelling Bee.

I had some issues with when and where the girls would discuss their newly found powers. There's an extended conversation in Best Buy when they're first trying to figure everything out - not exactly a secluded place. There were also some frustrating hints about the origins of the girls powers, but I think the frustration was intentional - it's implied that the girls' grandmother and great aunts had powers as well, but since their mom has never mentioned it nor shown any sign of powers herself, they never ask for more information. So the girls don't know any more than we do and since the whole novel wraps up pretty neatly, I doubt there's going to be a sequel where we get an origin story. Unless it's a prequel about the grandmother and her sisters. That'd be awesome.

In-depth, meticulous science fiction this is not, but if you want a family drama with a great trio of sisters at its core with a sprinkling of science fiction/fantasy elements (since it's not explained where the powers come from it could ultimately go either way), The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June is the way to go.

Reviewed from an ARC picked up at ALA. The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June will be released Tuesday, August 3rd!
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