Book Review: The Spec Set by Taya Okerlund #20BooksofSummer



Copernicus Science camp looks harmless enough on the surface, at least no one will tell you otherwise, least of all Max McKenzie, who doesn’t speak at all. He can’t even defend himself when he’s implicated in a high stakes chemical theft from the camp lab. Or can he?

His brother Emile is desperate to help, but he’s waking up to his own problems–chief among them the fact that he’s developed an incredible (and incredibly dangerous) new ability. He doesn’t know how to control his awesome new power, and turns to the one person he’s loathe to ask: Lilly Fang.

Lilly has everything under control, including other people’s biochemistry. (Or is Emile really that crazy about her?) Either way, she’s hiding a boat-load of secrets (and secret powers).

Lilly assembles a team of friends like none Emile’s ever dreamed of to help Max.

There’s Fetu, a near giant, whose presence alone seems to suck the air out of the room. Or does he do that literally?

And Danika, who’s so shy she seems to fade right into the background. Or does she actually become invisible?

And Eliza, who never lifts a finger–but is that because she lifts things with her mind?

The Spec Set will need all of their combined strengths (and their weaknesses) to combat a threat reaching all the way go to another universe.



I liked this one, I think the concept was really cool, but it didn’t connect with me as a reader as much as I wished it had.

Let’s start off with the good. The Spec Set is a book about mostly teenagers who all have some sort of special powers and team up to, well, not exactly fight crime, but sort of run special ops missions? Emile is our main protagonist. He’s a bit hard to read, has a lot of family issues, but loves his little brother Max despite twelve year old Max’s eccentricities. Max is a bit of a genius when it comes to chemistry and such, actually he’s more of an alchemist. When Max gets mixed up with some missing chemical, Emile is introduced to The Spec Set, and his own powers emerge. I really dig the concept of a bunch of teens with special powers. Gen X was always my favorite X-Men comic after all. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a concept like this before outside of comics. I know they exist, but just haven’t read them. Also, there’s a whole parallel/portal to another world thing going on here, and I thought that was handled really well. I love that this other world works slightly different than our own but is close enough to have some back and forth. These concepts were interesting when put together, as well as with all the special powers the kids have.

Things that didn’t work as well for me…well, there are a few things. The prose here didn’t work for me at all. I’ve read a book by this author previously, under a different name, and this style of prose worked really well there. Here, not so much. I felt like there were pieces missing, things that should have been said that were just skipped over. It was a little bit confusing for this type of story. Also, this story is Emile telling his story, omitting some details because of security concerns, but I kept forgetting that until I was taken back out of the story and reminded again by Emile talking to the audience. It felt jarring. If that was the goal, mission accomplished, if not then things could have made it feel more like Emile was continually telling his story rather than such abrupt reminders. Because of the prose, it made other things tough for me, like connecting to the characters. I just felt at such a distance from them, even the main character.

One of the other things that bothered me is a bit of a spoiler so I won’t mention it here, except in a vague way. I do find it hard to believe that such an agency would let kids have so much say so, basically be in charge, of an operation like what took place in the book. It was hard for me to suspend my disbelief in that regard.

I really wish that I had liked this book more than I did, but this may be a case, partly, of me not being a great fit for the work. Despite this one not connecting with me, I appreciate the imagination and creativity here and look forward to seeing what this author does next. 2.5/5 stars.

Thanks much to the author for providing a copy for review purposes. This did not affect the content of my review in any way.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Spec Set by Taya Okerlund #20BooksofSummer

  1. Tammy says:

    I do like the intriguing cover. It definitely says “science fiction” but it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Sorry this didn’t work for you.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      It wasn’t bad! I just think it wasn’t the book for me. It was scifi in some ways but there’s also people with powers, it felt more akin to comic books. Which is fine! But it just wasn’t my thing, apparently.

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