by Leigh Ann Kopans
To be published on June 11, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the author. Please see my full FTC disclosure on the right sidebar.
Connect with Leigh Ann: website : Twitter : Facebook : Pinterest.
Summary (from Goodreads:) 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.My take: I've been seeing a whole bunch of YA superhero/superpower books lately -- books like Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, Transparent by Natalie Whipple, Dark Star by Bethany Frenette, and Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer.
Okay, don't laugh, but I'm not all that plugged in to the whole superhero thing. I was not the kid reading comic books and watching Justice League. I was the kid reading Nancy Drew and watching Scooby Doo.
Despite being a superhero newbie, I really enjoyed One. It's a little bit superhero, a little bit sci-fi, and definitely a little bit paranormal romance. (But don't worry -- no love triangles here.)
Merrin was a unique and appealing main character. She's very into chemistry and also a drummer, which I thought was super-cool. I loved the book's Nebraska setting. I've never been there, but this book describes the landscape in way that made me want to remedy that. As the book explains, the so-called "mutants" were exiled to Nebraska after a group of them made an attempt on the president's life. When Merrin is finally able to fly, she looks down on her home and sees the beauty in it.
But let's back up a bit. Before that, Merrin really struggles with the fact that she's a One. In the story world, there are the Supers -- those who have cool powers, like flying. Then there are the Normals, those with no powers. And then there are the Ones, those with a single, cool-but-essentially-useless power. For example, Merrin can levitate a little, but she can't fly. After Merrin never becomes a Super, she finds herself at Nelson (aka "Normal") High, feeling pretty dejected.
Some readers may feel that the romance has a bit of an insta-love feel, but the instant connection between Merrin and a guy she meets at school is pretty central to the story. When Merrin first touches Elias, she feels an electrical current. Together, the two of them can fly. I did like the relationship between them and the fact that their negotiation of the combined power thing served as a nice parallel for their relationship. But One isn't only about teenage love -- there's a lot of action in the book too. Before long, Merrin and Elias involved in trying to stop some nefarious stuff going on at The Hub. And it looks like there will definitely be a sequel!
I asked Leigh Ann if she minded answering a few questions….
Jen: Thanks so much for stopping by to talk about your book! One is a story about a group of genetic mutants -- kids who develop super powers after humans are exposed to uranium. Confession: I am pretty new to the whole sci-fi superhero genre. I have never seen X-Men or watched Heroes or even read many comic books. Can you tell me a little bit about why you're drawn to the superhero genre and how you think One fits into it?
Leigh Ann: That's so funny. I think, because I grew up immersed in superhero stuff, I assumed everyone else was too for a long time. *grin* Obviously, not that many people are so very geeky - you're not the first one to say that.
Jen: Trust me, I was doing plenty of very geeky stuff when I was a kid.
Leigh Ann: I'm glad you asked this question, because I *just* wrote a long post on the answer for the League of Extraordinary Writers (going live the last week in May.) But, in short - it's because the story of coming to terms with superpowers so closely mirrors the story of adolescence - coming to terms with who you are. So many of the characters in superhero stories go through this really awkward period of figuring out their strengths and their weaknesses, and exactly what they want to do with them, which is exactly what growing up and being a teenager is all about. There is identity crisis, there is this time of figuring out the person you want to become and the person you can become. I think that that inner struggle, combined with the supernatural biopunk coolness of mutations that give someone superpowers, that always drew me.
Jen: That's very true. YA author Tahereh Mafi wrote a 2011 column for the Wall Street Journal that discussed some of those issues as well. I'm going to link to that article here, and then when your column goes up, I'll link to it too!
I loved that Merrin, your protagonist, isn't the typical YA heroine. She's short. She loves chemistry. Coolest of all, she's a drummer. Are you a musician, or if not, did you have to do research into bands and drums?
Leigh Ann: No, I'm not a musician at all! But I really did want Mer to be a drummer, for the reasons she tells us - it gives her something to hit when she's upset, something she can get lost in - and the reasons that I know she has deep down - that it makes her feel grounded and significant, even when the rest of her body doesn't.
So, yes, I did a lot of research, mostly watching drummers on YouTube to observe their movements, learning the names of the different parts of a drumset and how they're played, and then revising the scene with the help of two musician friends. That scene where Merrin plays the drums at Elias's house was definitely a tough 1500 words to get right!
Jen: In One, some of the genetic mutants have two superpowers. But many of them just have one power and are treated like second class citizens. Merrin is a frustrated One ... until she meets Elias and discovers that the two of them can combine their powers. This is such a cool concept and I loved it-- but okay, I also have a few questions. This power-combining also seems to be linked to romantic attraction. In your story world, is it possible to have platonic, non-romantic power-combining, or does the process necessarily involve some sort of deep emotional connection?
Leigh Ann: TOTALLY. Yes. I don't want to say much else, because it would give away the ending of the book, but it's dependent on a deep emotional connection, romantic or platonic.
Jen: Okay, this is probably an obvious question for an author who writes characters with superpowers, but here goes: if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Leigh Ann: To never sleep! Think of all the books I could write, all the books I could READ, how in shape I would be, how clean my house would be, all the Pinterest crafts I could do with eight more hours a day!
Jen: My family would love it if I stayed up all night and ironed their clothes and baked cookies. Not happening -- I love sleep too much to give it up! And even though you (presumably) sleep, your Pinterest boards are pretty amazing. Thanks so much for giving me a sneak peek at One -- I think YA readers are going to love it!
Leigh Ann: Thank YOU so much! You had some really great questions I haven't heard yet, and it was a real pleasure to chat with you.
One will release on June 11 -- for information on ordering the books on Amazon or ordering signed copies, here's a link to LeighAnn's website.
Tell me in comments: what superpower would you pick?