To Grady’s astonishment, all three of them are accepted into the inaugural class of Templeton Academy, whose curriculum promises to transform the best and brightest into something even more extraordinary. Roman imbues some familiar hero-academy elements with new depth and feeling. What becomes a superhero most is the ability to understand themselves and appreciate others, truths Roman explores along with relatable high school angst and all the mind-expanding possibilities the premise offers. Paralyzed by insecurity, Grady is wary of big dreams because he’s experienced loss: his parents died when he was an infant, and more loss followed. Templeton Academy provides an alluring escape, offering vital companionship (the enthusiastic Aarush as well as his lovely cousin Pari) and the opportunity to tap his hidden potential.
Still, while the Academy’s utopian futurism intoxicates Aarush,Grady is underwhelmed, especially when it comes to the mystical Codex, the source material for classes like Subconscious Studies. Grady sees life as an obstacle course, not a road to enlightenment, and Roman expertly steers young adult readers down these parallel paths until they converge. Roman grounds the characters with real-world struggles (like Grady’s asthma), which raises the stakes during a climactic battle that determines their future.
Takeaway: This smart super-hero academy story challenges convention.
Great for fans of: Drew Hayes’s Super Powereds, Julianna Scott’s The Holders, and Pattison Telfords’s Sky Lanterns Over Nether Ides.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-