Friday, April 24, 2015

The ABLES, by Jeremy Scott

Special ed kids, unite!  Who says disabled kids can't be superheroes, too?  Jeremy Scott's first novel, The Ables, puts a twist on the standard superhero story by featuring disabled kids with superpowers.  Phillip Sallinger gets the surprise of his life when his father tells him that his family all possess superpowers, and that the reason they moved from New York City to their new home is that the town is full of people with superpowers (and their "support staff").  His new school is a school for kids with superpowers.

The catch is that Phillip is blind.  On his first day, he is directed to the special ed room.  His classmates are other blind kids, a kid in a wheelchair, a kid with Down syndrome, and other kids with disabilities.  But they all possess superpowers as well.  Phillip and his friends team up to try to prove that kids with disabilities can be heroes, too.

I love the message of inclusion in The Ables.  Phillip doesn't consider himself disabled: "I could not believe that I was in a special education classroom. . . . I was blind, not disabled.  There's a difference!"  He leads his friends in an effort to have their group from the special ed classroom admitted to a school-wide competition.  He convinces his friends that "We can do anything these other kids can do."  His friend Sterling argues before the school board that "there is only one reason that we are not allowed to participate, and it's the fact that we're disabled. . . . Discrimination on the sole basis of a disability is not only illegal, it's illogical, immoral, and unfair!"

The story follows some familiar story lines: discovering and developing their new powers, the mysterious villain who terrorizes the town, the heroes' having to choose the side of good or evil, the family dynamics of people with superpowers, the tension between people with and without superpowers.  There are shades of Sky High, The Incredibles, Percy Jackson, and probably plenty of other stories here, but The Ables is plenty fresh and original.

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes and abilities.  The Ables especially reminds us not to write off those who don't initially seem to have much to contribute.  That disabled person in your life has a hero inside.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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