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A pleasant Young Adult novel
"I'm No Superman" is an enjoyable YA novel, and as such is first and foremost about how a teenager starts growing into an adult. Do not let the presence of the superpowers gained by Aiden Malcolm, the main character, fool you: the main focus is really how Aiden and his friends head into adulthood. The presence of those superpowers could even be read as a metaphor—we all have been teenagers and we all know that sensation, that idea that everything could be possible in the world. Only to, of course, feel like a total failure unable to accomplish anything after we get a low mark at school. In obtaining his powers, Aiden is forced to really, really consider what to do not only with those powers, but with his life too. And ironically, by becoming sort-of a Superman, he comes to understand that not even superpowers can solve everything in life. If anything, sometimes they mess things up even more.
Now, I'm going to dwell more into several aspects of the novel.
1) The plot
As I explained already, in my opinion, Nolan Dean's idea more than works. Rather than writing an SF novel, he wrote SF inside a YA novel, which is way, way better. All in all, the plot works well.
From time to time, some really obvious elements, like some deduction the characters should express or some information, like the state of Alison's family, are reached or communicated later than I'd expected. But in the end, everything ties up.
2) Aiden's superpowers
Being those superpowers a significant part of the novel, they deserve a few lines.
In order to avoid spoilers, I'll just say that they're not the classic kind of power. They've got a lot to do with biology instead,
3) The characters
The characters are the true strength both of the novel and this writer.
Aiden Malcolm is, of course, the most developed and detailed one. At the beginning of the story, he's a boy who loves parkour just for the thrill it provides, a quiet boy, unwilling to let Scarlett, Chad, and Alistair, namely the "bad guys" of the school, bait him. He doesn't like conflict just like he doesn't like the idea of competition. Deep down, though, there's a storm inside him, a desire to experience more than "the usual" life can offer. He wants to enjoy the thrill of the extraordinary.
As the situation deteriorates, his conflict with the "devilish trio" heats up, his father Andrew starts suffering from cancer and he gets his superpowers, he feels the need to step up and deal with his obstacles. Never to "just win", though, all he wishes is to protect his friends and help his father with their financial difficulties.
Alison Montgomery, best friend and later love interest of Aiden, is sometimes more prone to snap at people, but she's also ready to be the voice of reason when Aiden needs it the most. Their relationship is amazing and believable, far from perfect since they crush a couple of times, but in the end, their difficulties bring them closer.
The rest of their friends are less developed as characters, but what matters is that their basic traits are clear. Each one has a role in the group, and by working together they are stronger. They all are Aiden's rock when things are truly rough.
The "devilish trio", as I have named Chad, Scarlett, and Alistair, is far more than the antagonist of Aiden and Alison. In fact, I'm not even sure they can be defined as villains. Chad, it turns out, trained Aiden first in parkour and some time before the beginning of the novel became more of an enemy than a friend to him. Far from being a bad person, though, he's concerned that rivalry could end up very badly and likes to play fair, every time he can. Scarlett, though, is the most interesting of those three: she's got a rough life, a family that, she feels, doesn't really wants her around and while she'd like to do something meaningful with her life she thinks she lacks the practical means.
Overall, the rivalry between the two parties is all due to a misunderstanding. Aiden and his friend have no idea what goes around in the trio's brain, and vice-versa.
4) Writing style and technical writing skills
As you can see, I assigned a slightly inferior rate to Nolan Dean's writing style and technical writing skills.
The author's writing style is clear, simple... at times maybe too simple, From time to time the choice of words make it repetitive, and some periods could be expressed better. Overall, anyway, considering "I'm No Superman" is a YA novel, the writing style is in line with what a young adult could read: nothing too complicated.
Dean Nolan's technical writing skill could really benefit from some improvements when it comes to punctuation rules, though. I feel this is really Nolan's weakness, something he should work on.
Still, None of the novel's weaknesses make it less deserving! Overall, I definitely recommend this book.
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