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Powerless by Childs and Deeb eARC (2 stars)

Despite still needing to see "Avengers: Age of Ultron," I'm a big superhero fan. And I'm still mostly excited to see superheroes carving out space in YA fiction--both well known transfers, like Lois Lane and Black Widow, and original creations you can connect with at their cores while still enjoying the explosions and super powers. Unfortunately, Powerless is all about the action and "romance" and glosses over the characters.

This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deeb
Series: The Hero Agenda #1
Genres: YA, SFF, Romance
Published on June 2, 2015
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Final Rating: 2 stars
Kenna is tired of being "normal". The only thing special about her is that she isn't special at all. Which is frustrating in a world of absolutes. Villains, like the one who killed her father, are bad. Heroes, like her mother and best friend, are good. And Kenna, unlike everyone else around her, is completely ordinary— which she hates.

She’s secretly working on an experiment that will land her a place among the Heroes, but when a Villain saves her life during a break-in at her lab, Kenna discovers there’s a whole lot of gray area when it comes to good and evil and who she can trust.. After all…not all strength comes from superpowers.

Powerless has a great premise perfectly timed with the growing popularity of superhero films. Unfortunately, the world never came into clear focus and I failed to connect with the characters.

The plot speeds through everything. I can't decide if it's rushing the setup or "a world with superheroes and villains" is so ingrained in our pop culture consciousness, a setup is deemed unnecessary. I have a general idea of "them vs. us," but little knowledge of the world at large. It's like being dropped into the middle of a movie, hit play, and go, go, go.

The biggest weakness is the world building. Maybe the authors want to build up a mystery surrounding hero/villain origins for a big reveal later, but I have too many questions about the world and the facts of heroes and villains. The prologue suggests genetic experimentation is responsible, but then what makes someone a "hero" or "villain"? Why do marks appear behind one ear or the other labeling you as a hero or villain? What's the difference between hero and villain powers that allows one type to be targeted and blocked from entering a compound? Why do kids with one villain parent and one hero have two powers? Are you more likely to inherit a parent's power or develop a new one? Are heroes and villains common knowledge to the "ordinary" public? If not, how are they not? What percentage of the population has powers?

I can suspend disbelief (and curiosity) to a certain extent, but every unanswered question pulls me out of the story and makes it harder to reenter. I'll put up with a lot for the right characters, but the cast of Powerless felt a little flat and underdeveloped. Also, the romance feels contrived and somewhat forced. Kenna needs to stop making comments about the boy. It feels like the authors are trying too hard to make a case for Kenna liking him. If a romance takes that much explaining, it's probably not flowing well. Less telling, more showing, or better yet, leave the romance out until a few books into the series because there are MUCH bigger problems at hand. Kenna's constant comments on her crush, in light of all the dangers and worries at hand, don't reflect well on her.

I had a lot of problems with this story, but I still think there's a good idea behind it; and I can see readers with less curiosity about the world (and more patience for burgeoning romance in the midst of danger) enjoying this story. Regardless, I hope the next installment answers most of the foundational questions Powerless raises.


  1. I really liked this one, but I totally agree with you about the world building. It felt like we were just dumped into this world and the authors took a lot of things for granted, without explanation. But the story still drew me in, and I was able to get past that initial annoyance.

    Great review!
    Michelle @ Book Briefs

    1. Thank you! I tried to turn my brain off about the world questions; but every time I did, a new question appeared. On the bright side, I might be curious enough to pick up the next book just to see if it has answers. ;)

  2. ugh that sucks about this book - i'll have to check out the others you mentioned. i still haven't seen avengers either :)

    1. I picked up Lois Lane and Black Widow at BEA, and I'm pretty excited for them! But also a little scared, if that makes sense. These are such iconic're always a little worried the adaptation won't do them justice. ^^;

  3. I liked it a bit more than you did, but I did have a ton on questions and without that prologue there wouldn't have been any world building. I seem to vaguely remember one sentence which made me think that the general public didn't know about super powers, but it wasn't clear. I was really annoyed by what I saw as a plot hole near the end. How can she be so exhausted when she hadn't done anything and she was so strong before? I guess she needed to be weak for the plot, but tell us she actually used her powers first. Nice review!

    1. Thank you! I think I remember that sentence, too, but it opened up more questions. It felt like superheroes were such a big network (with their own police force and everything), it couldn't easily be kept secret... We'll see if they tighten up the plot and characters and expand on the world in Book 2!