(Disclaimer: The author both paid me and provided me with a free digital copy of their book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions expressed within this review are my own.)
At first glance, Samael Judd is an average teen living a mundane life . . . or he would be if he lived somewhere other than Comet Cove, a city filled with people known as Fragments who wield extraordinary powers. When Sam came of age, he didn’t receive his powers as the other Fragments did because he refused to accept himself. Since then, he’s struggled not only to conceal his true self, but also to hide the absence of his powers. His time is running out, though. The longer he struggles to keep his secrets, the greater the risks of exposure and exile become. To claim his rightful powers, Sam must face the truth about himself, which means revealing his deepest secret. This is a choice Sam must make on his own, but will he make that choice before circumstances force the truth to be revealed?
JUDD by J.D. Toombs and Erika Schulze was a fresh take on the superhero genre and an exciting young adult coming-of-age story that encouraged readers to be themselves and to find power in who they are. JUDD challenged what readers perceive as normal by placing the main character in a world where not having powers could lead to persecution and exile. This was interesting because instead of tension building around a character’s possession of powers being unveiled, tension was built around the threat of Sam’s lack of powers being exposed. The way Sam confronted the difficulties of living in a city of superheroes without powers of his own was creative and suspenseful, and Sam’s struggle to keep his other secret raised the stakes and enhanced his emotional turmoil.
My favorite aspects of this work were how well the characters stood out and how diverse they were. The characters felt as if they were real people to me, each with their own histories, personalities, and motives. J.D. Toombs and Erika Schulze did an excellent job of raising intrigue and appreciation for their entire cast of characters, not just Sam. The antagonist also enthralled me, despite the short time he was actually a part of the story. I wouldn’t say he was developed fully, but he had great potential to be. Based on the background offered in the story, the mystery surrounding his existence, and the way he interacted with other characters, he seemed to have a long and engaging history that I can’t wait to learn more about.
There were aspects of the book that hindered my experience. Some of the descriptions just dragged on too long. What was most off-putting about these long descriptions is that some occurred in the middle of the action, making it occasionally hard to follow the events originally being described. That said, the detailed descriptions did help me envision the story better. It’s just that many could have been shortened or placed in more convenient locations. I also wish the main antagonist had made more appearances. The event that introduced him was so intense that I expected the pace of the story to build throughout the rest of the work. The pace didn’t pick up again until the very end, and then it cut off so abruptly I almost screamed.
The cliffhanger was maddening, but this at least shows I
didn’t want the story to end. I did, however, want more closure before the
final page. Sam’s candid, sympathetic narration of his story and the conflicts
he faced kept me reading, and when I turned to the last page, all I wanted was
more. Readers who hate cliffhangers will definitely want to wait to read this
until the rest of the series is published, but I still recommend this novel,
especially to those interested in more diverse reads that include mixed race
characters and LGBTQ+ representation. There were some instances of profanity,
but there were no graphic scenes of sex or gore. In all, JUDD was a highly enjoyable read and I can’t wait for the next