Actually Super

Knopf. Aug. 2023. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593375808.
Gr 9 Up–Struggling with depression brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Isabel, a high school junior in Dearborn, MI, loses herself in an online international community united by a belief that the supernatural “proves there is a balance” in the world between good and evil. Theirs is a connect-the-dots planet of individuals with special, if secret, powers: Hatori in Tokyo, Mathilde in Jakarta, and so on. After earning her GED in summer school to dispel any notions she is dropping out, Izzy skips senior year and takes off on her 18th birthday to track down the others. The fidelity of two friends at home—Sam and Chío, who is Latinx—keeps Izzy close virtually if not actually, when she (temporarily) disappears. Whether or not this novel delivers on an ambitious premise, it’s a fun road trip through Asia, Australia, South America, and Mexico. Onigiri breakfasts in Japan one week flow into hikes in the Huayhuash mountains of Lima, Peru the next, as Isabel’s travels and observations—learning, for example, that Koreans pour tea for others first before helping themselves—open her to new experiences and make her grow. The fantasies her imagination can conjure now, stoked by memories of this fabulous year, may be enough to restore her faith in humanity. Isabel is Jewish; her great grandparents were Holocaust survivors, which weighed heavily on her beloved grandmother, and her father, who is also Jewish, espouses conspiracy theories rooted in anti-Semitism.
VERDICT Readers eager to fantasize living in three continents will enjoy following Isabel in her global search for humans with superpowers.

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