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Book review: Thrilling 'Blackout' depicts teens with superpowers in a dangerous world

Published: Saturday, Sept. 28 2013 1:00 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 3 2014 12:21 p.m. MDT

"BLACKOUT," by Robison Wells, HarperTeen, $17.99, 425 pages (f) (13 and up)

Utah native Robison Wells’ new young adult dystopian novel, "Blackout," offers almost non-stop action, with teens with superpowers blowing up Glen Canyon Dam.

It has an explosive ride of suspense, thrills and frustration as two teens from central Utah are thrust into government service to combat teen terrorists with superpowers who, for reasons unknown, seem bent on destroying the world.

But can the government be trusted? Especially as it is the one rounding up all the Utah teens for testing and who knows what else.

Jack and Aubrey find themselves sometimes helping the government, running from the government or being frustrated at the government that blames the superpowers on a virus only able to spread to young people whose brains are not fully developed. These superpowers are varied, with some teens receiving immense physical powers, while others can manipulate people emotionally, and still others find themselves with a power that doesn’t make much sense. Part of the fun in reading "Blackout" was discovering all the different types of superpowers.

Set in Utah, Washington and then California, "Blackout" includes many places familiar to Utahns, especially focusing on small towns in central Utah before the action heads up to Dugway and then to downtown Salt Lake City before leaving the state in the last fourth of the book. Wells deftly intersperses two contrasting narratives, focusing on Jack's and Aubrey's discoveries, and then switching to a teen terrorist cell that leaves destruction in its wake. When the two narratives collide, sparks (literally) fly.

One weakness is that relationships between characters sometimes seem hurriedly explained and not explored, likely due to the almost non-stop action permeating most of the book. Who has time for back story when there are superpowered teens? Perhaps a planned sequel will flesh out the characters.

There were many similarities to the television show "Heroes," and this could possibly be Wells’ cleverer and more teen-friendly answer to what turned out to be a disappointing story arc in the show.

There is little disappointment here, and any teen who wonders what he would do if he or she received a superpower needs to pick up "Blackout."

While "Blackout" contains no sexual innuendo, there is light swearing and a high degree of violence due to subject matter of domestic terrorism.

If you go ...

What: Robison Wells book signing

When: Thursday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, www.robisonwells.com

Emily W. Jensen enjoys writing, editing, reading and eating dark chocolate, sometimes simultaneously. She happily covered the Mormon blogs for the Deseret News for five years. Email: ejensen@desnews.com

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