This was an enjoyable, page-turning read. Invisible Justice provides an interesting take on supernatural powers and is a refreshing read in a landscape where young-adult fantasy/science-fiction is ripe, but dominated by different versions of vampires, angels and werewolves. This novel’s supernatural element, as the result of human scientific intervention, has resonances with Frankenstein, X-Men and the television show Heroes.
The narrative devices of journal recording, research, and the continual exchange of information between characters helps the reader learn about the nature of the superpowers and how they came to be at a gradual pace. This allows the reader to feel that they are along for the ride with the characters as the mystery unfolds itself, and also avoids the trap of a large information dump, which can often be an issue in an origins story. However, there are times when the narrative can be repetitive, especially in the instance when a new power-enhanced individual enters the fold, and birth-date, nature of flashes, and the need to record occurrences are reiterated.
Another nitpick of mine is Sam’s tendency to be able to hack into almost every kind of highly secured intranet or database. It seems a bit unbelievable that he would be able to circumnavigate security in every instance, or at least without some difficulty or almost being detected. I thought maybe this could be explained as a latent manifestation of his sixth sense, but the link was never really alluded to, so that might be looking into it a bit much.
I thought that the onset of each character’s power as they came of age was fitting. The powers are interesting and avoid cliché treatment. Sam’s power of heightened senses including a sixth sense of two-way communication with people’s minds is a nice touch for example.
The teen characters are also well-rounded. They each have their strengths, insecurities and quirks within their personalities. Lexi, a diligent, well-mannered student really takes to her new powers and some carefree experimentation. While Clint has many talents of the earthly kind: detecting electronic bugs, riding a motorcycle, being a young pilot, he is still anxious to discover his power and envious of his friends. The family back-stories and the romantic tensions that start to emerge also add depth to the characters. Their differences and similarities are played off cleverly creating a believable and united group dynamic. The simple but sharp dialogue goes a long way in this respect.
I also liked how Dr Blenkins, the ‘villain’ of the story, features early on in the plot, unnamed and watching over his superhuman creations, allowing the reader to have some knowledge of the mystery outside of characters’ investigations. His back story, both serving the army and as a doctor, provides an intriguing history to his need to create a superhuman army, but I did fell that we needed more information on his motivation. I’m guessing more of this would be explained in the sequel, but I still think the reader could benefit from knowing a little bit more about Dr Blenkins (maybe through a research document or newspaper) – but still not too much as his presence as an ominous threat is built on the ambiguity of his character. I would also have liked a bit more explanation of Dr Rowe’s involvement, between the initial suspicion of his involvement and meeting with Dr Rowe towards the end.
The metaphor of awakening heroes for teenagers becoming is treated with a deft prose style, strong dialogue and well-rounded characters. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I felt compelled to keep turning the pages and find out why and how these characters had gained these superhuman abilities. With some minor work I think this would be a suitable addition to the superhuman genre that is increasing in popularity.