2014; 340 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Fantasy; High School Literature. Overall Rating : 4½*/10.
Joe Black is having a perfect day. He’s with his high school sweetie, Kate, and her younger brother, Mod; and they’re sitting in the local stadium, watching their home team play their arch rival.
It’s a shame that something would happen to ruin Joe’s afternoon, but a huge explosion at the stadium during the game will do just that. And in the mass stampede of frightened spectators that ensues, Joe spots security personnel shooting at a fleeing woman.
I guess she could be the perpetrator, but hot dang, she’s gorgeous. Joe is your average high school guy with a keen appreciation for female beauty, and in the mad rush to escape the stadium, he’s become separated from Kate. So instinct tells him to help the damsel in distress. Well, maybe it was the hormones talking, but same dif’, right?
Besides, how much trouble could he get into by helping her?
What’s To Like...
The primary storyline is great: an “average Joe” gets entangled in a much bigger set of schemes and counter-schemes, and despite his ineptitude (he is, after all, just average), he ends up playing a critical role in thwarting the baddies’ plans.
There’s lots of action in Average Joe & The Extraordinaires, and it starts right away. Joe is an interesting character study as his “averageness” is put to the test under heroic circumstances. There’s some magic and fantasy woven into the story, but it doesn’t overwhelm the events of the plotline. Indeed, if anything, there were times when I felt the magic-wielders were rather dim-witted about not using their talents more. There’s also a mild sort of wit throughout the book that I found to be “just right”.
The characters and setting are almost entirely high school-related, and perhaps that gives a clue as to the author’s age and writing style. There’s too much telling and not enough showing, and the template for all the dialogue (Speaker, colon, quote) is awkward and leaves the text dull and flat.
The high school scenes felt forced and over-the-top. The cafeteria bullying just didn’t seem real to me; ditto for the teacher monitors who repeatedly looked the other way. Then again, it’s been a while since my high school days; maybe things have gotten a lot tougher there.
I don’t remember any cussing, and the romance is more puppy-love than R-rated. There’s no drug-usage and the only alcohol passage involves the kids sneaking a couple of brewskies into the big game. If that upsets you, you have issues.
Average Joe & The Extraordinaires sells for $0.99 at Amazon. Belart Wright has one other offering at Amazon, a short story called Story of K (59 pages), also for $0.99. It appears a sequel is in the works for AJ&TE.
“Now Modicum’s likes include pretending to be Ronald Weasley, wishing he was Fleez and Dozz and sometimes Byron, girls he can’t have, and an unreachable popularity status. His dislikes include himself, life, not feasting on souls, you, his haircut, his evil soulless ginger body, and having friends that won’t join team Badd Azz. His favorite date spot is his mom and dad’s room cuz that’s where all the magic happens. On Saturday nights, he likes to make out with his elbows, which is a talent really. You ever try that? It’s very difficult to do. He also builds Taylor Swift idols with his Lego collection, prays for popularity, and watches whole seasons of Glee that he’s personally recorded and sings to." (loc. 2236)
He took notes on his current book, A Clockwork Orange, which Mrs. Lane, who was also a Psychology major, constantly raved about. He couldn’t make heads or tail of it. The main character, Alex, seemed more of a bad guy than anything else. Joe never liked to root for the bad guy, so he didn’t see the point in reading this book. All the same, he forced himself to take notes on it. After a few hours, he noted that the good guys seemed to be more twisted than Alex himself. (loc. 3244)
“If anything happens to her I’m going to find you and besmirch you.” “Besmirch?” (loc. 390)
The major weakness of Average Joe & The Extraordinaires is the ending. There is none. The story just kinda grinds to a halt in mid-plotline. Some damsels in distress get rescued, at least temporarily, but that’s about it. None of the threads get tied up. To wit:
Why are the baddies doing their nefarious deeds? Why’s everything FUBAR at the high school? How does the magic system work and why is it there? What’s at the bottom of the stadium and how’d the subterranean levels get built there without anyone knowing about it? What’s so special about Melissa? About Liandra? About Dahlila? Who are the Extraordinaires and what’s their role in all this?
I recognize this is conceived as the start of a series, and that some of these things are to be reserved for later books. But nothing is resolved here. Basically, the only thing that happens is that the reader gets introduced to the various characters in the saga.
So here’s the proffered path forward. Cut the length of this book in half. Add it to whatever is coming in Book 2. Make sure one or more of the plot threads gets resolved, and wrap it around an exciting tale that moves the "big picture" storyline forward. Scrap the funky dialogue format. Get some beta-readers that aren’t afraid to critique. Now that the first draft is done (which is the creative, fun part), start polishing the text (which isn’t nearly as fun). When done, polish some more.
4½ Stars. Despite the weaknesses, the core concept of Average Joe & The Extraordinaires has enormous potential. But an engaging tale doesn’t just “flow” from the pen. It requires lots of blood, sweat, and rewrites.