A 13-year-old budding artist struggles to join a popular clique when sudden superpowers derail her plans.
Veronica McGowan, a mixed race (black/white), hopelessly average seventh-grader, wants nothing more than to be included in the most popular group in her middle school: the “Ests.” With such slots as “Richest,” “Smartest,” and “Funniest” already taken, Veri hopes to join as the “Artiest” by volunteering to decorate the spring formal; that is, if she can outmaneuver her archrival and previous holder of the title and not get distracted by the reappearance of her crush. Veri’s plans to impress are somewhat less than successful when her already awkward life is suddenly complicated by an onslaught of superpowers—a generous label for embarrassing, emotion-specific phenomena such as angrily breathing fire, transforming into stone during guided meditation, or turning an envious shade of green. Veri tries to get her emotions under control before their new physical manifestations ruin her chances at popularity and humiliate her for life. While Nuhfer has delivered a new spin on the classic “girl almost loses herself (and best friend) in attempts to be popular” narrative, heavy-handed contrivances yield a stiff, inorganic plot and a listlike sequence of conflicts—even deceptive parents and conspiracy theorist government agents fail to raise the stakes for readers. Blocker’s occasional pencil sketches add some visual humor but do not elevate the whole.
A book that manages to outpace its protagonist in mediocrity—skip it. (Fantasy. 10-13)