There’s something to be said about an undiluted message.
Demcak drops readers directly into the first-person perspective of James Kerr, a 14-year-old white gay boy with an undefined learning disability living in Los Angeles. Under last-minute pressure to finish an English class assignment, he writes a fully visualized poem thanks to the otherworldly hand of fictional Harlem Renaissance writer Montgomery Langston (whose equally fictional “An Undreamed Dream” is an appalling pastiche of “Harlem (Dream Deferred)”). When James does this again—and on the principal’s desk while under a trance—James finds out that he has both a gift or two and a half sister, a teenage Korean girl named Lumen, thanks to shared extraterrestrial DNA contained at Paragon Academy, a “school” that is a front for the U.S. government. In all of this, James falls mutually in love with his only friend, Paul Schmitz, a 15-year-old mixed-race Filipino/white neighbor and fellow ninth-grader whose father tries to “toughen up” through weightlifting, controlling contact between James and Paul, and homophobia-based physical abuse. They even become genetically manipulated cousins while remaining lovers. This book really wants to take its place in the marginalized-will-lead-us genre, as popularized by The Matrix and the X-Men franchises. But when that positive message is delivered with acceptance of taboos and negative stereotypes—such as mixed-race people’s “magical exoticism” and Magical Negroes using their supernatural powers to solely aid white protagonists—the message gets lost.
Well intended but desperately unsuccessful. (Paranormal romance. 14-17)