Ezekiel is almost 15 and in ninth grade at Downy High School. His usual mood is one of “resentful loneliness”. The other kids have actively avoided him since the fifth grade because they think he’s a thief, although he isn’t. He actually has a micropower, which enables him to find things that are lost and return them to their owner.
It was as if he had been born with this mission in life: to see that all lost things were returned.
Beth is almost 14 but is in tenth grade and declares she’s “smart enough for college”. She tells Ezekiel she’s “a proportionate dwarf” and her height is referenced at every opportunity during the book, often in offensive ways. Beth is Ezekiel’s only friend.
Ezekiel’s micropower is of interest to Dr. Withunga, who runs the Group of Rare and Useless Talents (GRUT). The others in the group also have their own individual talents, which run the gamut from being able to make people yawn to knowing if someone’s belly button is an innie or an outie when they’re fully clothed. While these talents are used by the participants they’re not exactly lining up to save the world with them. These are micropowers, after all; there’s no one from DC or Marvel in sight.
Until Ezekiel is approached by a police officer with an unusual request. Help him find a missing girl. Except Ezekiel has never found a person before, only objects. Scrunchies appear to be a particular forte.
I was really excited to read this book. I love anything superhero related so figured anything even hinting at micro heroes would be right up my alley. I’ve had Ender’s Game on my TBR pile for years but this is my first Orson Scott Card read. I’m not sure if there’ll be a second.
I loved the concept and there were sections of this book I would have loved as a kid. I’m certain I would have spent considerable time figuring out what my micropower would/should be and I would have cheered Ezekiel on as he figured out what he was truly capable of.
Adult me is conflicted. I had trouble figuring out the audience for this book. The writing felt like I was reading a middle grade book but then very dark themes were introduced, which would be more suitable for older readers.
I found the reveals predictable and I didn’t like most of the characters. Ezekiel could be a semi thoughtful human being at times but when he was in “brat mode” I found him insufferable. Besides knowing which character had which micropower, the kids in GRUT were fairly interchangeable. No one had a distinct voice and practically everyone in this book was trying to out-snark each another.
While I usually enjoy banter it exhausted me here. Most of the characters spoke almost exclusively in sarcasm (I would usually love this) but there was a lot of dialogue that was mean, rude and offensive.
I wanted to throw my Kindle at the wall with the sentences that irritated me and needed to switch my brain into ‘don’t question this’ mode whenever law enforcement allowed children to be involved in their investigation. What police officer would allow a child to be involved in interviews? What police investigation includes a child wandering with the officers into unsecure locations where they expect to encounter the baddies, who probably have weapons?
Some conversations had me scratching my head:
“But that’s how scared I am, Dad. I’m just shaking. Like I’m freezing cold.”
“It’s going to be a chilly night, maybe under forty. It really is getting cold.”
Others infuriated me with their poor taste, even if they were intended to be sarcastic. A psychology professor calls Beth Ezekiel’s “companion animal” and doesn’t seem to understand why Beth can’t see the “joke”. I almost refused to keep reading because of the flippant use of ‘crazy’ and ‘insane’, like when Ezekiel “played the crazy-kid card”. And who thought this was a good sentence: Maybe almost getting killed and killing a guy yourself was a weight loss program that could really catch on.
Although it’s made clear that Beth has her own mind, and a very intelligent one at that, Ezekiel and her father both take it upon themselves to speak on her behalf towards the end of the book. At no time has she requested this. She even annoyed me at times. Even though I assumed this was sarcastic, when discussing who could own a lost toy cement mixer, she comes up with, “With a truck it has to be a boy.”
The trauma that Beth experiences is glossed over and there are unanswered questions, like which police officer/s were involved in the crimes.
Content warnings include mention of bullying, death of a parent, kidnapping, child pornography, murder, trafficking of children and abandonment. Oh, and if you haven’t read it already, this book spoils the ending of Charlotte’s Web.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
“Are you really a thief?”
That’s the question that has haunted fourteen-year-old Ezekiel Blast all his life. But he’s not a thief, he just has a talent for finding things. Not a superpower – a micropower. Because what good is finding lost bicycles and hair scrunchies, especially when you return them to their owners and everyone thinks you must have stolen them in the first place?
If only there were some way to use Ezekiel’s micropower for good, to turn a curse into a blessing. His friend Beth thinks there must be, and so does a police detective investigating the disappearance of a little girl. When tragedy strikes, it’s up to Ezekiel to use his talent to find what matters most.
Master storyteller Orson Scott Card delivers a touching and funny, compelling and smart novel about growing up, harnessing your potential, and finding your place in the world, no matter how old you are.