Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: One, by Leigh Ann Kopans

A girly YA romance pretending to be a superhero novel.


Createspace/self-published, 2013, ~ 76,000 words

When having two powers makes you a Super and having none makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak. It makes you a One. Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly - too bad all she can do is hover. If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub's research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances. Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they're not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they're busy falling for each other. Merrin's mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub's internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub's purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it's up to her to decide if it's more important to fly solo, or to save everything - and everyone - she loves.

I am a sucker for superhero novels, and I was intrigued by the author's marketing of this self-published novel. That's right, this is a self-published novel. Leigh Ann Kopans apparently found an agent, but the agent was unable to interest any publishers in this book, so Kopans decided to go the "indie" (I hate that disingenuous and misleading term) route and publish the book herself, with a professional cover.

She should have spent a little more money on editing; in general, I found the book to be written well, but there were enough grammatical errors, sentences that were missing verbs, and other clunkers that professional editing should have caught, that I would say this is a manuscript that could have been greatly improved with another round of polishing.

That also applies to the story, unfortunately. There was potential here, but weak worldbuilding and cardboard characters left nothing to distract me from the insta-love teen romance between the Mary Sue and the Perfectly Tame but Cute Boy, which unfortunately takes up more page count than the interesting stuff, like superpowers and evil scientific conspiracies.

One starts with some interesting ideas. It's a couple of centuries in the future, and there was a "World Uranium War" that released radiation into Lake Michigan, causing mutations and superpowers. Okay, I'm willing to give the author that one as a gimme — it's no dumber than most superhero origin stories, especially in novels where you have to come up with a single origin for all the superpowered people.

A true Super has two powers, which is what actually allows them to function as supers. Explained this way, it makes sense — flame-projectors, for example, need invulnerability or regeneration along with their flame powers or they will give themselves burns every time they use their powers. Likewise, someone with super-strength but not a super-strong skeleton who tries to pick up a car... well, it won't be pretty. Teleporters, if they don't have super-senses to let them see where they are teleporting to, are likely to meet with grisly ends. And so on.

Merrin Grey is a "One" — she has just a single power, and much to the disappointment of her Super parents, it never became anything else. She can float, but she has no propulsion ability, so she can't actually fly. Most Ones' powers fade when they get older, but Merrin, unbeknownst to her parents, has continued to practice, unwilling to give up.

When she is finally written off as unpowered, she is transferred from Superior High, where all the super-kids go, to a "normal" high school. Here she meets Elias VanDyne, whose sweatshirts she will spend most of the rest of the book sleeping in.

I want Elias — kissing him was enough to tell me that, and I’m not stupid enough to deny it.

I want to fly more than I want him. Way more.

As unbelievable as it was, it wasn’t — could never be — it’s not flying on my own. If I fly with Elias, I can’t fling my arms out to the side and feel the nothingness speeding between the earth and me. Not unless he carries me.

And no matter how good it felt to kiss Elias, to be so close to him that I felt his heart beating in my chest and the vibration of his speech against my skin, I don’t want to let him carry me until I know I can carry myself.

That was actually one of the better-written passages, but there will be a lot more of Merrin mooning over Elias, and I think she's collected a closet full of his sweatshirts by the end of the book.

Oh, God. I fell into bed last night still wearing Elias’s sweatshirt. I can’t wipe the smile off my face.


Elias turns out to be a One also. Elias has some friends who are also Ones. Elias's twin sisters are Supers, like Merrin's twin brothers. There is a Hub, which is the super-secret-except-they-have-annual-expositions-for-all-the-local-high-school-students-to-come-see scientific facility that does research on Super powers. Merrin wants to go there because she thinks they can unlock the genetic puzzle that prevents her powers from manifesting.

Naturally, sinister conspiracies are uncovered, Merrin and Elias learn how to do things that somehow legions of scientists have not figured out in a century previous, and two sixteen-year-olds realize their eternal totally mature and believable love for each other.

So first of all, this is a very, very girly book. If you like very girly books, you will probably enjoy it more than I did. I guess I should have been warned off by the cover, but hey — superheroes.

The romance is a much stronger element than the superpowers and the conspiracies. And I can tolerate romance. I do not expect sixteen-year-olds not to be googly and stupid for each other, because hey, hormones.

Yeah, so here is the cover for the sequel, Two:


I guess you are supposed to squee?

Elias is as much a Gary Stu as Merrin is a Mary Sue. I try to be judicious in using those labels, but Merrin is an adorable super-genius whose only flaw is that she has a semi-useless super-power (okay, and she's also rather petty and bitchy at times, like any teenager); anyone she likes turns out to be nice and anyone she dislikes turns out to be evil, and all of her guesses turn out to be right.

Elias is handsome, gentle, sweet, yet manly. He loves his sisters and never acts like a jerk, and even though he's in love with Merrin he never tries to do anything she doesn't want to do, and they are literally super-compatible. He always believes her and trusts her and behaves in whatever way she needs him to emotionally at any given time, except for a few places where the plot calls for him to keep his mouth shut (see below).

So yes, I call Stu & Sue.

On the plus side: I kind of like that Merrin is a genius and is neither modest nor boastful about it. And while Eliaskissykissywoowoo is the perfect boyfriend, Merrin has realistic reservations about boys after meeting some Super boys are not perfect boyfriends. And the One/Two angle is actually rather inventive.

Even if you like girly YA romances, though, I felt this book failed in most other respects. For example, for a world with superpowered people, we sure don't hear much about them. They exist, but they don't seem to have done much to change the world. And for a world set in the 22nd century or thereabouts, it sure resembles our world an awful lot. They have smart-houses and faster Internet, but otherwise high school and suburban living seems to be pretty much unchanged.

But what really caused me to revise my estimation of the book downward, after some initially mildly positive feelings despite the onset of kissy-kissy-woo-woo, was the direction the plot took with the conspiracies and the villain.

First, most plot complications came about from people just not telling each other stuff they could easily have told each other. This bugs me. It bugged me in Harry Potter, it bugs me in most movies, and in this book it was the only reason for pretty much all of the twists and complications.

This was especially glaring when it came to the villain's evil plan. Weakest. Evil. Mastermind. Ever. He lies about things that there really wasn't much reason to lie about. In the end, I thought his entire evil scheme was stupid, because there wasn't really any reason to have kept it all secret when most of the people involved would likely have cooperated willingly. Telling everyone what he was up to would probably have been easier and less risky than playing cloak and dagger games and being Really Evil, and his motivation for being Really Evil was cliched and unconvincing. And when Merrin and Elias make their move, I found the way in which they were able to back him down and "win" was also quite unconvincing.

One is not terrible; it is aimed solidly at teenage girls who want to swoon over a cute guy, and if you are in that demographic, it's probably a decent read. My bad for wanting a superhero novel. I will not be reading the sequel.

Have you read One?

Yes, and I liked it.
Yes, and I didn't like it.
No, but now I want to.
No, and I'm not interested.

Verdict: For a self-published novel, One is not bad. It's not great, but I've read worse that was professionally published, so if the cover appeals to you, it's worth a few bucks. Be aware, however, that the cover is telling you exactly what you're going to get: a floaty girl in a YA romance. I wanted a superhero novel, and this is as much a superhero novel as Twilight is a vampire novel.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, reviews, superheroes, young adult

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