Seeking stories of kids with superpowers?
January 29, 2008 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to make a list of books that include the central plot element of kids learning how to use or cope with unusual powers, dramatic or mundane. (Jumper, recently made into a movie, is one example.) Extra points if the books are primarily aimed at children or young adults.
posted by sacre_bleu to Media & Arts (48 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
There are a bunch of sci-fi/fantasy books in this category... first that comes to mind for me is "Gifts" by Ursula K. Le Guin.
posted by rivenwanderer at 8:24 AM on January 29, 2008

John Wyndham's Chocky is excellent.
posted by goo at 8:24 AM on January 29, 2008

The Harry Potter books are the obvious ones. See also Diane Duane's So You Want To Be a Wizard series.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:25 AM on January 29, 2008

The girl with the silver eyes was pretty influential for me when I read it as a kid.
posted by arabelladragon at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Girl with the Silver Eyes; I was coming in here to suggest it.
posted by amro at 8:36 AM on January 29, 2008

Wow. Me three with the Girl With the Silver Eyes. I had no idea there were other people who loved that book!
posted by craichead at 8:40 AM on January 29, 2008

Black and Blue Magic by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I read it a dozen times as a kid and with both of my children. It suffers a bit from its age, but it is still an awesome story.
posted by cyclopz at 8:41 AM on January 29, 2008

Tamora Pierce writes pretty much exclusively for young adults and kids, and her books are filled with this stuff (especially the Wild Magic set, which is exactly what you're asking for, just spread into something like four books). I grew up on those books.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:42 AM on January 29, 2008

Double Trouble Squared may fit, although the kids more or less already know how to use their powers (limited telepathy). Regardless, it was a great book for my little-girl imagination.
posted by that girl at 8:43 AM on January 29, 2008

Well, apparently the series is called The Immortals, and it's only the first book that is called Wild Magic. There's also her other stuff, but it isn't quite as "here's your power, go get used to it!" as The Immortals.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:47 AM on January 29, 2008

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham in which people who already have come to terms with their advanced powers go searching for kids who need help with theirs.
posted by merocet at 8:50 AM on January 29, 2008

Matilda, by Roald Dahl. The book is far better than the movie, in my opinion.
posted by chara at 8:51 AM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

The Trouble with Jenny's Ear. Teacher read this to us in 5th grade and it struck a cord with me.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:56 AM on January 29, 2008

Escape to Witch Mountain and sequels, by Alexander Key.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:59 AM on January 29, 2008

Hidden Talents and True Talents by David Lubar are about this. Hidden Talents is the first book and it takes place in a school for troubled kids. Some of those troubled kids realize that some of their problems are because they have powers that are out of control.

I would also say that the first Harry Potter book falls into this category somewhat. Harry thinks he is a normal kid living in a normal world, but he finds out that he can do magic, and the entire world is not as it seems.
posted by bove at 9:01 AM on January 29, 2008

For mature YAs, certainly not kids, but Queen’s Gambit fills the bill perfectly without once dipping into fantasy, SciFi, SpecFiction, or magic; it’s about an orphan girl who discovers she’s a Grand Master level chess well as an addictive personality. Amazing, unforgettable, and under-appreciated masterwork by Walter Tevis, of Hustler and Man Who Fell to Earth fame, both also tales about dealing with special skills.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2008

Not aimed at kids or young adults, but Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude is an excellent example of this.
posted by dersins at 9:16 AM on January 29, 2008

Ender's Game?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:18 AM on January 29, 2008

I really enjoyed the So You Want To Be A Wizard series myself. And Matilda is pretty good, with a decent movie to watch after the fact.
posted by slavlin at 9:20 AM on January 29, 2008

I loved Black and Blue Magic (referenced above) as well as Jane-Emily and The Active Enzyme Lemon-Freshened Junior High School Witch when I was a pre-teen.
posted by nkknkk at 9:26 AM on January 29, 2008

The Exorcist!
posted by notmydesk at 9:32 AM on January 29, 2008

Harry Potter?
posted by hydrophonic at 9:32 AM on January 29, 2008

There is a wonderful new series by James Patterson, the first book of which is being made into a movie with possible sequels to come, called Maximum Ride. The kids in the book have all escaped from a lab where they were genetically engineered to have special powers--some of which the scientists never anticipated. They are still learning to deal with their powers, and as they grow and become stronger, new ones appear.

The best part? They're human/bird hybrids with wings, all of whom can fly. And the leader of the flock is a girl. (Oh, and their enemies include human/wolf hybrids, which are also cool).

Great teen book series! In order, the books are: The Angel Experiment, School's Out--Forever, and Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports.
posted by misha at 9:35 AM on January 29, 2008

Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series.
posted by rtha at 9:40 AM on January 29, 2008

Seven-Day Magic by Edward Eager. When I was a kid I found my aunt's old worn-out copy, and I read it over and over again.
posted by bassjump at 9:41 AM on January 29, 2008

Nicholson Baker's The Fermata, though most of the novel is about later episodes in the character's life. Most definitely not a book for young adults.
posted by Bromius at 9:48 AM on January 29, 2008

It's a comic, but X-Men First Class by Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz covers a lot of that territory and, hey, giant monster fights!
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:05 AM on January 29, 2008

Not exactly a book, but Demo is a 12 issue comic series that fits your description pretty well. There are no super-heroes (or villains) in these comics either.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:07 AM on January 29, 2008

Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus series (To Ride Pegasus is first). The premise of the series is that we finally find a way to measure 'extra talent' like clairvoyance, clairsentience etc - and the effect this has on society as people trust/distrust the talents (much like X-Men) and how people, including children, cope with whatever talent they have.
posted by widdershins at 10:07 AM on January 29, 2008

Lifter by Crawford Killian
Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld.
The Wee Free Men and sequels, by Terry Pratchett

Several of The People stories by Zenna Henderson fill this bill.

A Coming of Age has an interesting twist on this trope.
posted by notbuddha at 10:15 AM on January 29, 2008

Fade by Robert Cormier.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:21 AM on January 29, 2008

Juniper, Wise Child, and Colman, by Monica Furlong. The third is recent and I haven't read it, but the first two were staples of my childhood and adolescence. Really a fantastic (in both senses of the word) model for feeling different and disciplining one's abilities.

Seconding The Dark is Rising--the first book, especially.
posted by hippugeek at 10:34 AM on January 29, 2008

Midnight's Children. It isn't written specifically for young children, but it is a wonderful novel. Also, it's Great Literature.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 10:47 AM on January 29, 2008

Monica Dickens' Messenger series is also very good: The Messenger, Ballad of Favour, Cry of a Seagull and The Haunting of Bellamy 4. The protagonist becomes a messenger for a magical horse and travels through time helping people and solving problems, etc, and much of the character development is through coping with her new powers and the conflict between her new role and ordinary kid-life. Very well done.
posted by goo at 10:52 AM on January 29, 2008

The Third Eye by Lois Duncan is about a high school girl who has psychic powers but is somewhat afraid of them and also feels that they will make her too "different" among her high school friends. But then the police ask her help in locating a missing child...
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:00 AM on January 29, 2008

I have very fond memories of "The Tomorrow People" -- a Brit show from the 70s that featured teens & young adults who were the "next generation" of human evolution and had unique abilities (jaunting, ie teleportation, etc).
posted by davidmsc at 11:11 AM on January 29, 2008

Tangent but, davidmsc, they remade the Tomorrow People in the 90s and episodes used to air on Nickelodeon on Saturday afternoon. At least I think it was a remake, the show didn't look like it was from the 70s. i liked it except they kept showing the same two stories over and over again and I would always miss part of other one (the story would stretch over 4 or 5 episodes.)
posted by lilacorlavender at 11:20 AM on January 29, 2008

A number of Edith Nesbit's books fit the bill: Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet. Not very much in fashion now, but all immensely enjoyable.
posted by peacheater at 11:42 AM on January 29, 2008

The Shining by Stephen King.
posted by OneOliveShort at 11:48 AM on January 29, 2008

My favorite book ever: Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater. It's out of print on its own but you can buy it as part of the 5 Novels collection. Sure to please YA and adults alike, unless they're lame.
posted by cowboy_sally at 12:21 PM on January 29, 2008

Seconding Juniper/Wise Child/Colman.

Also, it seems that The Golden Compass deals quite a bit with that (Lyra's innate ability to read the aletiometer).

In I, Coriander the central character unexpectedly moves through dimensions into a Fairy World of sorts.

In Eragon, the kid has to cope with learning about his new connection to the dragon.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2008

Also the "Animorphs" series is about a group of kids who are altered by alien technology that permits them to shapeshift into any animal that they touch. Drama ensues.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:34 PM on January 29, 2008

I remember one I read in grade school that had a great title: The Secret Life of Dilly McBean. He was magnetic!
posted by web-goddess at 2:43 PM on January 29, 2008

davidmsc, if you ever get the chance to watch a Tomorrow People DVD (original 70s version) with the commentary on, do it. They're hysterical. The actors are drinking beer and snarking fondly at their teenage selves, their hairstyles, the writing and the special effects and are having a glorious time doing it.

lilacorlavender, yep, they did remake it in the 90s.

And to answer the question, would Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea count?
posted by andraste at 4:46 PM on January 29, 2008

The Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett certainly fit the bill.
posted by Biblio at 5:02 PM on January 29, 2008

Robin McKinley's Sunshine and China Mieville's Un Lun Dun spring to mind. Sunshine is the story of a baker in a coffeeshop who gets tangled up with vampires in a slant-reality world and has to learn to use her magical abilities to survive. Un Lun Dun is about the sidekick (don't call her that!) of the prophesied savior of a abcity connected to London. Her power is mostly street smarts and common sense, but she's nonetheless a powerful figure.
posted by fuzzbean at 8:23 PM on January 29, 2008

If you don't mind comics, "Runaways" from Marvel certainly fits the bill. It's almost an anti-superhero series. The cast ranges from 11 or 12 to 19, and themes are fairly mature (evil parents, death, sexuality, among others). But there is a great deal of young people learning to deal with their powers without much outside help.
posted by lhauser at 10:02 PM on January 29, 2008

This chain is old but still...
Don't discount the movies and TV as a good research source, after all many of them were adapted from great books. The movie versions often add a different take on the emotions and struggles of the characters making them an interesting companion to the source material.

The Boy Who Could Fly
Sky High
Interview With A Vampire
Superman (The original)
The Lord of the Rings
Heroes (TV series)
Sabrina The Teenage Witch
posted by berlyqkim at 9:50 PM on September 1, 2008

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