A YA superhero novel by Chino Chakanga

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From super speed to telekinesis, everyone in Hope\’s world has special abilities. Through ill fate, she is born without any. Her peculiar case is a medical mystery which warrants comprehensive research and countless visits to the hospital.

Hope undergoes painful tests and unorthodox treatments to cure her of her unique condition and make her normal while grappling with the pitfalls of being different at school and leaving in the shadow of her multi-gifted younger brother.

Will Hope ever gain abilities? Is there a place for her in a world where great emphasis is placed on special abilities?

Special is an abstract look at the pressures of meeting the societal mould.

~buy Special:


I’m always down for books about superheroes, and Special really caught my eye. Not that the “ungifted protagonist in a world of gifted people” isn’t something I’ve seen before, but the take on “fixing” Hope and all the tests/hospital visits made this book stand out. It’s like being ungifted was an illness with no cure, but experimental treatments are all the rage. Turns out, there was some fascinating science behind everything, and without spoiling, I’ll say I learned a lot from this book. The ending wrapped everything up in a very satisfying conclusion.

So, I guess my biggest issue with this was that I wanted it to be longer. The characters and world were just amazing, but they didn’t feel fully fleshed out. The story made use of many flashbacks, which I liked, but I didn’t feel like the present of the story got enough attention. The ending made sense, but it didn’t feel like it was built up to enough, and some of the big reveals were a bit obvious, at least to me. Digging a bit deeper into everything would have brought this from “I enjoyed this” to “holy cow! Must tell everyone” fairly easily.

Despite loving the heck out of anything superheroes, the powers (or lack thereof) weren’t my favorite part of this. That honor goes to the wonderful message about labels. You might be thinking that message is how labels shouldn’t matter, and you’d be partially right. Actually, it’s how labels aren’t all bad. The author makes the distinction between important labels (like sky or water—labels that tell us what to call something so we can communicate with one another) and social labels (shown most strongly through the special abilities hierarchy, where more desirable abilities put you higher up on the food chain). I loved this. There’s been a lot of talk lately (and rightly so) about how we shouldn’t label people, and I agree. But labels aren’t inherently bad or even the problem. Something is what it is. It’s when those labels are used to harm others that they become an issue, and that’s an important difference.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this. There’s a lot to unpack in this book, and it’s all explored in clear ways. I’d definitely read more from this author.

About Chino Chakanga

Chino Chakanga can usually be found reading a book, which more likely than not is Science Fiction. Writing a novel was always on his bucket list, and eventually, with Special, it became a reality. When not absorbed in the latest gripping page-turner, Chino loves travelling, dances very badly, and otherwise spends far too much time at the computer.

Find him online:

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