A 21-year-old woman survives a new, deadly disease and gains the ability to absorb any material she touches in Larrinaga’s (Galtzagorriak and Other Creatures, 2017, etc.) adventure tale.
When Tess McBray checks herself out of the hospital to watch a meteor shower, she fully expects to die. After all, people like her, suffering from severe cases of Solstice Syndrome, don’t last long off an IV. The next morning, however, Tess no longer has constant pain or nausea. She opts to leave her life in Albany, New York, and return to her East Coast hometown of Weyland, where she can hopefully make amends with her older sister, Bethany. Unfortunately, Bethany’s still with her abusive, alcoholic husband, Bruce—the reason why a frustrated Tess moved to another state three years ago. More significant, though, is Tess’ eventual discovery that her hands can assimilate the properties of materials they touch, including the plaster of her apartment walls. As she struggles to control her new power, she becomes obsessed with a media-dominating, masked vigilante called The Fox, who also appears to have superabilities; she assumes that he’s also a Solstice Syndrome survivor. She gets the chance to use her ability for good after Bethany’s unexplained disappearance, which might be linked to her wretched husband or to a recent string of kidnappings in town. Larrinaga’s superhero-origin story has a sturdy foundation in its well-developed protagonist: she’s a comic-book lover who’d rather be alone but still gravitates toward a radiology technician named Reed. Learning about her ability is thoroughly engaging, particularly as she discovers its potential shortcomings. Tess’ first-person narration is intelligent, insightful, and charming, as when she describes a date’s “super straight, ultra-white teeth on display.” There’s also plenty of danger in the final act. Although some later revelations are unsurprising, the action is wisely restrained, and hints of other superpowered beings aptly set up a second book in the series.
A superhero saga featuring an appealing heroine with a frankly cool power.