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Superpowers

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3.25  ·  Rating details ·  734 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
Madison, Wisconsin: In the summer of 2001, five college juniors wake up with . . . not just a hangover, but superpowers. . . .

Jack Robinson: Grew up on a farm, works in a chem lab, and brews his own beer. Age: 19. Superpower: SPEED.

Caroline Bloom: Has a flair for fashion design and a mother who’s completely out of touch. Works as a waitress for a lunatic boss.
Age: 20. Sup
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 10th 2008 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Ben Babcock
I was kind of excited about Superpowers when I first added it to my to-read list, way back in the day. When I borrowed it from the library, that ardour of anticipation had cooled, and I braced myself for apathy or outright dislike. Superhero fiction just seems like a disappointing genre for the novel these days. It’s not that the superhero novels I’ve been reading are bad. No, it’s worse—they are bland. Soon I Will Be Invincible had an exciting premise and perspective but fizzled; although Em ...more
K
What a confused mess of a book.

Superpowers can't decide what it wants to be about, and the book isn't quite long enough to encompass multiple themes, so it ends up feeling ham-fisted and tone-deaf. The 9/11 narrative adds nothing to the superhero narrative, and the superhero narrative adds nothing to the 9/11 narrative, and the whole thing reeks of soap-boxing. The characters, while likable enough, lack distinctive voices, and the framing narrative strains verisimilitude when, if the book had ju
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MJ
Oct 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
What a good book! First, he starts with a basic comic book premise, that 5 college kids wake up one morning with assorted superpowers, but approaches it with a more realistic eye in terms of characters and characterization: one feels slighted because everybody else's powers are better; one is ticked off it happened to other people, too; one is unhappy because the others found out about hers. And the housemate who had been essentially living at his girlfriend's when the rest got their powers wond ...more
Susan
Nov 05, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: superheroes
9/11? Seriously, he had to include 9/11?

Also: the woman whose power is invisibility is black. Shoutout to Ellison or just plain tacky?

Also: extremely obnoxious commentary from the book's "editor" used to paste over plot holes and inconsistency in logic.

Also: rape used to define a character (one of the signature crimes of comic books)

Also: incredibly derivative, and at least comic books are visually interesting

Oh, I'm going to stop now. It's not worth the effort....
Jeffrey Grant
Jan 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this quite some time ago, so my memory of details (characters, specific events) is hazy, but I still recall my impressions.

I read a piece the author wrote on John Scalzi's blog where he described his primary thought behind this book, which was; what if you have superheroes with no supervillian to fight? His primary gripe seemed to be that most of the story of superheroes centered around their conflicts with and attempts to defeat the big bad(s).

The book was good up until about 2/3s of t
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Melissa (Book Nerd Reviews)
What a surprise of a book! I did find the first 50 pages or so a liiiittttle bit slow admitedly, however I powered through it and came out on the other side feeling happy that I did. Initially the book annoyed me, but I'll explain why.

The book starts from the perspective of Marcus Hatch, our "Editor". He starts of telling us how this is a true story, and I guess setting the book up. Then as the book suggests, our characters have a night on the alcohol and wake up mysteriously with superpowers.

On
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Ron
Aug 06, 2011 rated it liked it
A novel of ideas that is far superior than anything I've read set in Madison (Ann Packer's awful book is the worst offender), Schwartz's novel still manages to disappoint on some fundamental levels. He makes some errors about logistics, over does the local flavor, and allows his own voice to intrude upon the narrative simply to impress us with his knowledge of obscure historical facts (I've never met a 20 year old who knew about the Tuskeegee Experiments). The kids are just far too precocious an ...more
Sarah
Sep 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
I totally agree with Publishers Weekly on this adult novel, and I'm not quite sure what the Booklist reviewer was thinking. This book just doesn't work, although the concept is interesting. Five college students suddenly become superpowers--flight, mind reading, invisibility, strength, and speed. Wow--sounds good, right? But I never got close to any of the 5 main characters, mainly because the author kept throwing in tons of secondary characters who weren't necessary. I couldn't keep track of th ...more
Trin
Oct 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, american-lit
A realistic look at what might happen if five college students suddenly developed superpowers after a night of heavy drinking. (Clearly, I went to all the wrong parties when I was at school.) This book manages to be very funny and very sad at the same time, which is a combination I love. Schwartz uses his characters—all of whom he managed to make complex and distinct—to explore a number of interesting ideas. I’m not sure he quite gets everywhere he wanted to go with all of them, but the resultin ...more
Mike
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I found this book in a bookstore while I was on vacation. I loved it. I devoured it in less than a day. For someone like me who grew up on comic books, this is the perfect blend of reality and fantasy.
Leonard Pierce
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The new novel by my imaginary internet pal David Schwartz snags the coveted "four stars to be upgraded to five if you buy me drinks" rating. Smart, probing superhero fiction of the sort I wish I'd written.
severyn
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not great. I mean, not actually bad, but nothing to write home about either. Although I suppose I am in a way. Writing home.
Doesn't really deal well with being a superhero, nor with being a university kid, nor with 9/11 and is certainly no Spider-man comic.
Stephanie
Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Dark and smart and fun.
Jonathan Ford
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting book. It’s basically a realistic “what if superpowers existed” story. The five characters are interesting though I am not 100% sure their reaction to suddenly waking up with superpowers is actually realistic. They all seemed to accept it a little too easy. It’s an origin story of sorts, but the author (in my opinion lazily) glosses over the actual “how” part of the acquisition of their powers. The end of the book was a bit more depressing than I anticipated. I don’t quite get why the ...more
Michael Ritchie
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Smart, funny and oddly realistic look at what may happen if a small group of humans suddenly developed superpowers. The whole thing is clothed in the issue of power and responsibility, and knowing and accepting our limitations.
Ramesh
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dark.Superheros are humans too.
Shae Bright
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Thumbs way up for the first 275 pages or so.

Thumbs down for the next 100.

Thumbs up for the rest of the book.
Hannah Givens
Jun 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Five college kids get superpowers for no reason and decide they should be superheroes. The basic gimmick is that it's real people having a realistic experience with superpowers.

I wanted SO hard to love this, but I didn't. Why does "realistic" have to mean boring and annoying? The second page gives us this fantastic quote: "This isn't some snooty book where people nobody likes do things nobody cares about for reasons nobody can figure out. That's what they call literature." It'd be an even better
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Daryl
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics-related
A friend passed this book along to me, knowing that I was a fan of comic books and superheroes. This is not the first novel I’ve read about people with superpowers in the “real” world, nor the best, but it’s a pretty enjoyable read. It goes quickly and held my interest throughout. Five college students who live in the same apartment building wake up one day with superpowers, and decide what to do with them. (So far this sounds very similar to a comic book concept I’ve been working on.) The descr ...more
Ryan Smith
Jun 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ryan by: Read about it in an essay in Poets & Writers
The ending of this book left me very torn; I'm not sure whether I'd like to see a sequel (or a series) grow out of it, or if I'm more satisfied by an arguably 'open' ending that stops there. It's hard to find a comic book / movie spinoff / etc. that doesn't leave things open to a sequel, so much so it's becoming very cliche.

I'd love to see more of these characters, though. Whereas I was relatively disappointed in how they spoke and behaved earlier in the novel when discovered their superpowers
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Daniel
Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this up in a little independent book store, but, as I like comics and I enjoy literary and genre fiction, this seemed like a good book for me.

I'm still intrigued with the premise ... five students in Madison, WI wake up one morning to discover that they've inherited/developed/been gifted with some extraordinary super powers. What happens next?

I like that Schwartz has attempted to keep it real. Grounded (no pun intended). Unfortunately, it gets so
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Eric
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone I know
Recommended to Eric by: A friend
This is one of those books that makes me wish I could put in half-star ratings. I am not ready to go 5 stars (it was amazing!) with this book, but it's definitely superior to other books I'd consider four stars.

I recently read and reviewed Soon I Will Be Invincible , another superhero novel. Superpowers is almost the conceptual inverse of that book.

This novel dealt in a sober and realistic way with what would happen to a group of friends who suddenly developed superpowers. There are no supervil
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Kate (Reading Through Infinity)
1.5 stars
OK, I'm going to be savage here. I really didn't like this book. The writing style was average and the editorial interludes were mundane. Their only purpose was to constantly reaffirm that 'this story is real', and that the editor isn't going to explain how the main characters got their powers. Which I think is a huge cop-out. If you're going to give characters powers the possibilities are unlimited for how they could get them, but because you can't think of anything original you just d
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Andrea Mullarkey
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was thoroughly unprepared for this book. The plot is simple enough: five college students from Madison wake up one morning in 2001, not with a hangover but with superpowers. What follows is a fairly predictable set of adventures as the newly formed superhero group the All-Stars. But what was less predictable was the focus on the psychology of the kids as they navigate their new superhero status and responsibilities. They wrestled with large social questions like whether it is legal or even eth ...more
Jennifer
Oct 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who has wanted superpowers
Recommended to Jennifer by: Kelly
Shelves: read-2009
An interesting if not entirely successful novel that explores that famous line from Spiderman about "how great power brings great responsibility." In the summer of 2001, five friends living in the same apartment building in Madison wake up one morning, hung over from drinking together the night before, to find they have developed superpowers. Jack is now super fast, Caroline can fly, Harriet has the power of invisibility, Mary Beth has super strength, and Charlie has telepathy.

The group decides
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Joel
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
This read a little bit more like the prolong to a superhero book then an actual superhero book because what it mainly does it sets up the motivations and formative experiences of the main characters.

Let me give you the basic outline. College students get powers. After some hesitation they decide to put on spandex and fight crime while wearing masks. This goes pretty well, all things considered, but they can't save everyone and once or twice they do more harm then good. They react to that. The e
...more
Emily
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: superheroes
I love superhero stories and I was pretty into this one right off the bat. It kept me entertained too, despite my irritation at the occasional "Editor's Notes," wherein the narrator tries to convince us that this is a true story and justify the lack of things like a supervillain or any explanation at all about how these people gained their powers (honestly, if you're not going to explain it just don't explain it; don't tell me all about how you're not going to and how it's okay because this is a ...more
Sara
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly Edwards
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book started out slow. I almost put it down in the beginning, but then the characters started to gain depth and suddenly, I was hooked.

I love the literary approach to superpowers. It's not a matter of heroic people saving the day. These characters are just ordinary and somewhat selfish college students who gain powers and try to use them to do good.

And as they are human, they are fallible. That's the best part of the book.

One thing that came as a surprise was a real life event that was w
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DMD
Jun 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I had wanted to read this book for a while because it takes place in Madison, a block away from where I lived, and it is written by a fellow sharing the name of one of my least favorite people.

This book has an interesting premise but it isn't until the end that it really lived up to my expectations. The beginning of the book was a bit too simplistic. The female characters seemed to be the type of people that a guy would imagine female college students to be like. The middle, when the college ki
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1346588
David J. Schwartz carries Minnesota with him in a small camel-colored attaché with a combination lock; it can only be opened by taking the number of hairs on F. Scott Fitzgerald's head, dividing it by the secret formula on the Kensington Runestone, and adding the ghostly cry of a loon (usually a negative number). If found, please return to the nearest person wearing flannel.

Because his luggage is
...more
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