Book Review: ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans
by Leigh Ann Kopans
Review by Kimberly G. Giarratano
Set in the distant future in still-rural Nebraska where a subset of humans has developed supernatural abilities, One is a complex young adult narrative about identity, belonging and self-fulfillment.
The following is the Goodreads blurb:
When having two powers makes you a Super and having none makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak.
It makes you a One.
Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly – too bad all she can do is hover.
If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances.
Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.
Merrin’s mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it’s more important to fly solo, or to save everything – and everyone – she loves.
Told in first-person present tense, One is a well-crafted and engaging story about what makes humans whole. For Merrin, being a One makes her feel like half a person. Although, she has ambition and drive, these traits are only advanced by her frustration at being denied opportunities automatically given to Supers. She believes all her hard work and laborious study will not grant her a second supernatural ability unless she can get a position at the Hub to fix herself. And that is Merrin’s biggest character flaw. It’s not enough that she’s the smartest kid in school, she won’t feel like she belongs until she can be as physically extraordinary as every other Super. Her struggles to accept her “oneness” are a metaphor for every teenager who feels inadequate and isolated.
The romance between Merrin and Elias is beautiful to watch unfold. Merrin’s feelings for Elias are as sincere and they are complicated. Despite loving him, Merrin wants to fly on her own. To be whole, Merrin needs to be able to fly alone. Whereas, Elias feels whole only when he flies with Merrin. It’s not worth flying at all if he can’t fly with her.
Billed as an X-Men meets Sky High, One is reminiscent of the popular (although, defunct) television show, Heroes. Leigh Ann Kopans doesn’t just portray romance and the inadequacies of half-powers, she tackles the political and unethical repercussions of using people with supernatural abilities for less-than-moral endeavors. Just like on Heroes people with incredible powers can be manipulated for unspeakable causes. In addition, sometimes bad people shouldn’t be Supers as Merrin discovered when a high school bully with super strength harmed her.
Kopans, who self-published this novel, describes her journey from concept to querying to submissions process on her blog and she’s certainly an inspiration for all authors.
Kopans wrote that she aimed for the traditional publishing route. She secured an agent after 127 query letters (89 rejections and 38 no responses). Her agent then submitted the manuscript to the usual suspects of publishing houses with no luck. As she wrote on her blog, “The publishers we submitted to don’t think they can sell ONE, but that’s okay. Because I think I can.”
Kopans didn’t just shelve her novel when there were no takers — she assembled a team of people to help her self-publish. Her cover art is beautiful and the editing is excellent. This is truly how a self-published book should look and read — as professional as if one of the big New York City publishers had churned it out themselves. And based on the positive feedback and reviews the novel has received, one imagines those publishers wish they had acquired this book after all.
So far Kopans has earned an average 4.1 star rating on Goodreads and 51 positive reviews on Amazon and a highly impressive sales rank of less than 10,000. If hype, marketing and solid writing are a writer’s superpowers, then Kopans is already a Super.
Her follow-up to One, titled Two, is slated for publication this October.
Kimberly G. Giarratano can be found on Twitter @KGGiarratano or at her blog: http://www.kimberlyggiarratano.com Her debut novel will be published by Red Adept Publishing in 2014.