Phillip Salinger is a blind 12-year-old who finds out he is part of a secret community of superheroes and that he has his own superpower: telekinesis. As any kid would be, Phillip is excited about his new identity and his budding powers until he’s placed in the special education class in a school designed for superhero kids. He and his friends will have to overcome school bullies, real-world villains, and their own disabilities to save the town—and, perhaps, the world.
Was that dramatic enough?
The Ables is Jeremy Scott’s debut novel and apparently there is a sequel in the works. Scott is a co-creater, writer, and the narrator for CinemaSins, a popular Youtube channel that reviews movies, music videos, and brands for their various sins.
I LOVE this channel so you can imagine my excitement when I found out Scott was publishing a book…and with a blind main character! I’ve got a blind main character and, even though she’s been demoted to secondary protagonist, Sky currently tells at least a third of the story and introduces a couple different elements to the reader, including new settings and the primary antagonist. It’s a little tricky to write from a visually impaired point of view but Scott does a fantastic job.
Okay, about the book.
What I loved:
Narrator: Phillip’s POV initially is largely tell-not-show for obvious reasons but, even with a style that might hinder another story, he shines. The story is framed as a retrospective account by an older Phillip that allows for more nuance and self-reflection. Phillip, who is completely blind, obviously cannot provide setting descriptions, but the settings are small-town and simple enough that I don’t really need him to. Not only that, but Phillip’s narration is very honest and believable. It’s refreshing to read a character and forget that he’s not real. There were some parts where the self-awareness was a little distracting, but not often enough to detract from the overall storytelling.
Action: The action scenes were superb. I took extended lunch breaks, I brought the book to Phoenix Comicon FanFest so I could read it during downtime, I took it on the train—all because I couldn’t put it down. Once we move into the second act, the story is fast-paced (but not bullet-fast, not until the third act). It kept me glued to the pages, struggling to put the story down and get back to my real life.
Surprises: I study writing, story structure, plot, characters, etc. I write it. I study it. I know it intuitively from reading and paying close attention to what I read over the last 20 years. This. Book. Surprised me. That NEVER happens, not like this. Sure, I called all the twists at the end, but there’s one in the middle that just floored me. Mad props to Jeremy Scott for that, I was on lunch when I read that chapter and it was a struggle to put the book down and focus on my freaking job.
Characters: The characters, what happens to them, and how they deal with it all took me on a roller coaster ride. I cried. In my cubicle at work. Silently. It’s hard for me to relate to middle-school boys but damn, I totally cared about these kids and I really felt the emotional punches.
I do have one nitpick down below but involves spoilers so READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I give The Ables four out of five stars and I can’t wait for book 2. Go check out The Ables or CinemaSins today!
WARNING: SPOILERS AND REFLECTIONS ON MY OWN STORY
What tripped me up:
The only thing that bothered me were the initial moments when Phillip is able to see through another person’s eyes via that person’s superpower. This is a boy who has never been able to see in his life but he immediately knows what everything is. Maybe this is because of the method through which he is able to see, but that’s never stated. He simply recognizes what a face is, what hands look like, and specific items that he is trying to find. Research shows that blind individuals who gain sight experience severe agnosia—they can’t recognize objects because they’ve never seen them before. It would be like playing a sound you’d never heard and expecting you to recognize it. When Phillip can seemingly adjust in a few seconds it’s dramatic but a little convenient.
I’ve played around with giving Sky sight, temporarily or permanently, in future stories in this series (she probably won’t get it in the first one, and I’m going to write multiple regardless of success). It has always been a central plot point in those scenarios as her sudden vision would incapacitate her in some ways, despite freeing her in others. Could be fun!