Review: The Ables

I read this book almost a year ago, but it still kind of bugs me, because I was so disappointed by it. The premise was so good but the execution was a lot poorer than expected.

(An earlier version of this review was posted before on my tumblr.)

Goodreads synopsis: “I did have fantastic hearing, mostly by virtue of being blind. But that couldn’t actually mean that he’s trying to tell me I have super powers, right? Because that would be ridiculous.” It wasn’t the sex talk he expected. Phillip Sallinger’s dad has told him he’s a custodian, a guardian, and his genetically inherited power is telekinesis. He ll learn to move objects with his mind. Excited to begin superhero high school until he discovers he’s assigned to a special ed class for disabled empowered kids, he suddenly feels like an outsider. Bullied, threatened, and betrayed, Phillip struggles, even as he and his friends calling themselves the Ables, find ways to maximize their powers to overcome their disabilities, and are the first to identify the growing evil threatening humanity. As vital custodians disappear and the custodian leadership is mired in indecision, a mysterious and powerful figure taunts Phillip, and the enemy is poised to strike. But what if the next one who does all, the multi-gifted custodian predicted to come, is one of the Ables? The Ables is a fast-paced, captivating debut novel from Jeremy Scott, a bold new voice in fantasy and sci-fi, and already a widely popular storyteller as co-creator and narrator of CinemaSins, a YouTube channel that has amassed more than 3.3 million subscribers in under two years.

My rating: 2 stars.

Review

The Ables is a book about a group of disabled children with superpowers who team up to uncover a supervillain conspiracy. It was an enjoyable read, but I had some issues with it.

Written by the guy from youtube channel CinemaSins, I expected if not an amazing book, at least one without obvious plotholes or, well, the kind of things that would get sinned on CinemaSins. Sadly those things were present – a lot of things got picked up and presented as if they would be important later, then were never mentioned again, and there are a number of inconsistencies.

Another thing that bothered me was that the main character and his friends were all boys. I’m used to a superhero ensemble containing only one woman (which is already annoying), but this group was all boys. Even though the class they’re in (a special class for disabled children) does contain two girls, who get excluded for no good reason.

The main issue I have with this book, though, is its representation of disabled people. I have to say here that I do not have any of the disabilities the characters in the book have. I do have a chronic illness, but my thoughts on disability in this case are of a general kind because I have no experience with these specific disabilities. There are some spoilers in this part, but I’ll try to keep them minor.

The main character is blind, and his superpower is telekinesis. His blindness makes it hard for him to use his superpower, but not impossible. However, instead of him learning how to adapt to using his telekinesis while he can’t see, which is shown in the book to be entirely possible, the boys figure out a way to use one of their friends’ superpowers (telepathy) to enable the main character to see. I was very disappointed with this; though I liked how the boys worked together, it seemed like the only way for the main character to be a hero was to be cured of his disability. (Plus, the way it was described was a little sloppy; sometimes the main character was said to look somewhere, even though he was only getting the visuals of his friend sent to his mind and his ‘looking’ in any direction should have no effect on what he’s seeing.)

Another thing I thought was strange, was how the character with Down syndrome was portrayed. I don’t know much about Down syndrome, but this character (Donnie) was about 20 years old and he could barely speak, which is completely different from all the people with Down syndrome I’ve ever seen, on TV or in real life. I can’t seem to find any other reviews mentioning this, so I might be wrong – as I said, my experience with Down syndrome is very limited, so someone else would be better qualified to discuss this.

In the end, though the idea behind The Ables is very interesting, the execution was poor, regarding writing and plot as well as representation of disabled people.

 

If you’d like to read about recognising ableism in books, I recommend this post on The Bookavid. The first ableist trope she talks about, ‘the magical cure’, is one of my main problems with this book. I definitely think this post is a must-read for book bloggers – and for readers as well.

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