Book Nights: Overtaken
Overtaken by Mark H. Kruger
After finishing up the first book in this series, Overpowered I was very excited to move onto the sequel. Even though it took me a bit longer to get into the book, once I got about halfway through I really wanted to rush through to the end. I’m glad that I was able to dig into this series which has really brought me around on the superhero novel, as the first couple I read were bad to mediocre, but these last three have all been a real treat to read. Not quite enough for me to go seeking out more on my own, but I won’t be turning down any future offers to review if they come my way. Here, Kruger is able to take the hero that he built up in Overpowered and change the situation in an unlikely and fascinating way. As usual, there will be some spoilers in this review so fair warning.
Following up on the first book, Nica is adjusting to life as a normal teenage girl with the ability to turn herself invisible trapped in a town controlled by a corporation doing experiments that give a small percentage of teenagers other super powers. Where the first book was all about setting up Nica, her new friends and their powers, it ended with a big monkey wrench in the system. This book is all about breaking away all of Nica’s support system as she digs deeper into the mysteries behind the large, ever-present corporation Bar-Tech. The subtle reveal of Dana Fox as a secret agent for Bar-Tech as she slowly turns Nica’s friends against her through mind control is paced extremely well. The world of Barrington is much more expanded in this book as Nica is forced to expand her circle of friends and more and more of the students are revealed to have super powers. It also ends with a climactic super powered showdown involving kids who are no longer new to their powers, but have had time to practice and improve their powers.
Much of what I said about Overpowered is also applicable here. Nica is a great protagonist, she’s strong, she’s smart, and she’s not overtly girly. While there is a romantic triangle sub-plot going on, it never feels like it’s in danger of taking over the main thread of the story. And while the two objects of her affections can be lumped into two teenage boy tropes: the loner rebel and the popular jock, they are given enough personality beyond their tropes to feel much closer to real people. Even though one of them isn’t exactly themselves for most of the book.
The heart of the story is really the mystery of Bar-Tech, their experiments, and what exactly is going on in the town of Barrington. And that mystery is one that’s doled out in nice little doses that gives you just enough to keep you interested, but not so much that the entire thing is figured out by page 100. There’s also the overwhelming presence of paranoia, there’s no way of knowing who Nica can trust, who has their own agenda, who may be working for Bar-Tech, and who is genuinely on her side. There’s also just enough science behind what’s going on to keep things slightly grounded in reality. There isn’t anything that’s truly overpowered or incredulous even though there are teens with powers like telekinesis and astral projection. The action scenes are also infused with the right amount of reality so that when there’s carnage, you feel the impact of what’s happening, and there’s never any fight scenes that leave you questioning how someone without being a trained fighter could do these things.
Things definitely took an interesting turn in this book, it’s not too often that a story will build this character up in one story just to knock them all the way back down in the next. But throughout the whole situation, Nica remained grounded and level headed while still singularly focused on unraveling the mysteries surrounding her. Again, there was a nice mix of tension, humor, and action. The pace felt a little bit slow during the first half, especially as you feel for Nica as she loses her friends and even her family at one point one by one. But once a certain character shows up about halfway through the story, it ramps up towards the climax and doesn’t let up until the end. This story also ends with a lot more closure than the first book, there are still enough seeds in place to continue this story in a third book, but there isn’t this monkey wrench thrown into the system to directly set up the next book like there was in the first one with the reappearance of Dana Fox. Which does make me glad as I don’t have the third book in front of me like I did with this one so I’m much happier to wait for a third volume which may or may not come and I’m ok with that. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.