Sunday 6 December 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Special by Chino Chakanga

Author: Chino Chakanga
Genre: YA Fantasy / Dystopian
Publication Date: 14 August 2019

Book Description:
From super speed to telekinesis, everyone in Hope’s world has special abilities. Through ill fate, she is born without any. Her peculiar case is a medical mystery which warrants comprehensive research and countless visits to the hospital.

Hope undergoes painful tests and unorthodox treatments to cure her of her unique condition and make her normal while grappling with the pitfalls of being different at school and leaving in the shadow of her multi-gifted younger brother.

Will Hope ever gain abilities? Is there a place for her in a world where great emphasis is placed on special abilities?

Special is an abstract look at the pressures of meeting the societal mould.

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It was the book cover that made me want to pick this one up. It stands out, and just like the cover, the main character, Hope, also stands out in this story. This book has all the hallmarks of our reality, but the world has been flipped upside down. If parallel universes did exist, I would imagine there would be a reality just like this one where everyone had a special ability or at least it was common to possess a superhuman quality. Hope is surrounded by people with magnificent abilities. Those without abilities, such as Hope, are ostracised and ridiculed for being abnormal.

Hope wants nothing more than to fit into her world and not feel like an outcast at home and at school. She's tired of being a lab rat, undergoing treatment after treatment in a bid to find the cure to unleash her dormant powers. Apart from her best friend, Allie, the only friend who stood by Hope after developing her abilities, the only other person who makes her feel a little less hopeless is Asher, the highly intelligent student she met on one of her many hospital visits who has the ability to mimic people's voices but can sometimes remain stuck with the last replicated voice for days. Due to his defective ability, Asher falls into the same category as Hope, a maladroit, those who exhibit undesirable abilities and are at the bottom of the food chain.

Having to deal with school bullies who constantly remind her of her failures is one thing, but when Allie starts to drift away from her in favour of the popular crowd, Hope and the school hottie, Eric, start to grow closer. The closer they become, they more she realises there's something familiar but rather odd about Eric's behaviour. When Hope discovers the true reason behind Eric's strange behaviour, she's left with a difficult decision that could mean hurting those she loves. Being forced to take charge, Hope learns that sometimes being the odd one out can have its advantages and maybe, just maybe, she's special because she is unlike anyone else.

This was a very moving coming of age story and an enjoyable one at that. I liked the character of Hope. She held the story well. I thought there was a little too much focus on her lack of abilities that we didn't really get to see much of her other qualities until nearing the end of the book. While I understood the motivation behind Asher's decisions and the reason why he was not prominently featured throughout the story, I would have liked more interaction between him and Hope in the earlier chapters to get a better inclination into his turmoil. I felt I didn't connect with him as much, which was a shame because he played such a big part in making Hope acknowledge her inner strength. Having said that, I liked the themes portrayed throughout. Despite being unfamiliar with Hope's reality in the sense of everyone exhibiting special abilities, I felt a great familiarity with the ambience of Hope's world and had reasonable knowledge of the social pressure of trying to fit in that could leave one emotionally damaged. I definitely felt a connection to her on some level. I also liked Allie as a character. She had her flaws, which made her feel real, but I would have appreciated a little more insight into her home life or just more insight into her mindset so as to rationalise her behaviour in certain scenes. I liked that the characters were all different and had different personalities. Sometimes it's hard to remember certain characters because they all seem so similar, but that's not the case in Special. I recalled all the characters, even the stereotypical bullies, which was good as it means they made an impression on me and they helped to bring the world alive in my head.

This was a quick read, and I would certainly recommend it.


Award: Gold
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: Author

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