As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, our writers have accepted the challenge of reading and reviewing pre-publication review copies of highly anticipated young adult literature. The reviews are posted here for our readers, but also will be sent to the Book House where they will hopefully be used to inform customers about the books they may want to purchase.We will try to publish one review a week for the spring.
The reviews contain spoilers, so be forewarned!
My So-Called Superpowers
by Heather Nuhfer
Published January 2018
256 pages, Imprint Publishing
My So-Called Superpowers, by Heather Nuhfer, is young adult fiction which takes place in a middle school setting. The main character is Veronica McGowan, a middle school student at Pearce Middle School who desperately wants to be popular. The major themes that Nuhfer portrays in the book include the importance of not losing sight of key people in your life, the need to talk to people about your problems rather than hiding them, the importance of not trying to be someone else to impress people and the importance of not letting people’s opinions about you affect who you are as a person.
Veronica lives with her dad; she has a best friend named Charlie and an archrival named Betsy. Veronica’s main goal throughout the book is to become part of the EST, the group of all the popular kids at Pearce Middle School. Veronica tries many things to become an EST, such as trying out for the school play, trying to join clubs and even trying out for sports teams. Her goal to be an EST causes her to lie, to be faced with conflicts, and even causes her to lose her only true friend, Charlie. After being cut from the volleyball team, Veronica realizes she has superpowers that are influenced by her emotions. For example, when she is mad, she releases fire or a tornado and, when she is sad, dark clouds form over her head. This changes her life forever. At first, it makes it even more difficult for her to be an EST but, in the end, it teaches her to accept who she is.
From the very beginning of the book, Veronica tries to be someone she is not to impress the ESTs. Veronica is not as pretty, not as smart, not as athletic, and not as artistic as everyone else but she wants to be an EST badly. As a result, she tries out for the volleyball team which leads to a bloody nose from her archrival Betsy (most artistic EST) and embarrassment. She also tries to join the Spring Formal Club (SFC) but she gets embarrassed because the members make fun of her for showing up to be part of a club limited to just the ESTs. Due to all this negativity and failure, she is forced to hold in a lot of her anger. After all these failures, there are always only two people who support her, her dad and her best friend Charlie. Later in the book, Veronica loses sight of how important these people are to her.
Only when there is a crisis in the EST group after they kick out Betsy, the lead decorator, and they do not have anyone to decorate the Spring Formal dance do they include Veronica. Of course, Veronica jumps at the opportunity and agrees to join them. I believe that the ESTs are doing this because they know Veronica will do anything to be accepted by them and they can use her to do all the work. For example, Jenny, the most popular EST, tells Veronica, “We’ve never had anyone be spirited enough to take on both food and decorations.” (111) They also force her to do two themes that do not even go together, vampires and horses. To make sure she agrees, Derek winks at Jenny and says, “We’re excited to see what you can do, Vanessa. Maybe even make you a permanent member of the SFC, if the dance is a success.” (112) Veronica continues to seek their approval even though they cannot get her name right.
At the beginning of the book, Veronica talks to her dad about her failures. However, when she realizes she has super powers, she tries to hide them. “My mind was going a million miles an hour as I grabbed my school stuff and changed my clothes. What in the helloladies just happened? Did it really happen?.. ‘Veronica, I’m heading out!’ Dad yelled. I was relieved. The last thing I needed was the Man with a Thousand Questions poking around.” (44-45) She calls her new powers her “stupid powers” and thinks they will ruin her life because they will stop her from being an EST. Nuhfer shows us this is the start of Veronica changing as a person not just because she has powers but because she is losing sight of the most important people in her life, Charlie and her father.
As a result of focusing on becoming one of the ESTs, she loses sight of her most valuable friendship, her best friend Charlie. Charlie tries to explain to her that getting the approval of the ESTs is not important. “‘I don’t care that I’m not an EST, because you know what? Those people are idiots. Mindless little robot people…You know; I don’t know what makes me feel dumber; the fact that I never noticed how shallow you are or the fact that all this time I thought we were best friends.’ He paused, then said, ‘Since we were little kids I’ve only needed one person to like me.’” (183-184) Nuhfer supports the theme that Veronica has lost sight of her true friend Charlie and mistakenly believes that Jenny and the rest of the ESTs are her true friends. I believe that Veronica is focusing too hard on being accepted by the ESTs instead of taking advice from Charlie and not worrying so much about the group.
In the end, Nuhfer explains that Veronica is wrong for turning her back on Charlie and focusing on the ESTs because, at the end of the book, Jenny betrays Veronica by giving away Veronica’s secret that she has superpowers to the whole school know at the dance. Even though this incident seems like a bad thing at first for Veronica, she realizes, through the help and support of her dad, that being an EST was not important for her to be happy. She also realizes that having these superpowers was a gift and it makes her embrace who she is. “Maybe that wasn’t what I wanted, but it is what I am. And I as starting to believe that wasn’t so bad after all. Weird is wonderful.” (228)
I believe that this book is very influential for teenagers going through school. Nuhfer does a great job of explaining that you do not need to try to impress people to be popular but rather having good people around you, such as family that actually care about you, is more important. Even if you are not the smartest, the funniest, the most beautiful, or the most athletic, there is always something unique about you that makes you different from everyone else. You should embrace those qualities. I would suggest this book to every teenager going through high school.