Life hasn’t been easy for David. He’s never been the most popular boy at school, never been one of the cool kids, never been with “the in crowd,” but still he was doing okay until his father died. That was when it all unravelled, but out of that trauma came a change in his life which he could never have predicted or anticipated.
Like a radioactive spider, like a secret serum, the tragedy which caused David to turn inwards from his friends and retreat upstairs to the loft bedroom which used to be his father’s office was also the trigger which led David to realise he had super powers, though in practice those powers are of little practical use.
He cannot show them to anyone, he cannot change anything with them, and most of all he cannot save the one person he desperately needs to save because David’s powers are all in his head, a fantasy he has created to save himself from the cruelty of the world, his super hearing eavesdropping on conversations, his super vision the bird watching binoculars which once belonged to his father, and the messages they bring are conflicted and cause only more sadness.
The new young adult novel from writer, illustrator and cartoonist Chris Priestley, Superpowerless dances along difficult territory, grief, depression, teen relationships, school bullying, peer pressure and some terrible coping mechanisms as David risks the few strong relationships he has left with impulsive and self-destructive actions.
Initially a likeable and understandable character, David’s fantasies spring from how he thinks he is overlooked by others making him feel invisible but he is driven by a need to be important, to be able to make a difference and help others even as he struggles to connect to the present and seeks comfort in the past, his father’s collection of vintage comic books.
Not so much about the powers he has or lacks as about the power grief has over him, David has people around him who attempt to help but the grip of the past is stronger, offering safety and clarity in four colour strips, memories of a stable family, but he is lying to himself as much as those around him.
With raging teenage hormones fixating him upon Holly, slightly older than him, recently returned from university and conveniently babysitting for the neighbours up the road and sunbathing in their back garden visible from David’s upstairs room, his self-imposed retreat has left him ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of making friends with girls, particularly those more experienced in the world than him.
Willingly digging himself deeper into trouble it’s easy to see why people become exasperated with David who makes no effort to improve his behaviour. While his classmates know of his loss their sympathy can only go so far, and like the play Hero Worship, Superpowerless examines why we are inspired by heroes, why they have a hold over us, but most importantly it is aware when to leave them behind, to stop playing the sidekick in someone else’s story and start being the hero of your own life by doing the right thing.
Superpowerless is available now from Hot Key Books