In her engrossing first novel, Cross introduces Avery Pirzwick, a misunderstood teenager with mysterious superpowers he keeps secret. Avery tries to use his super-strength and flying ability to help others, but mostly they just cause him grief ("the only 'super' I've been to my friends lately is super lame"). He quit the wrestling team after accidentally breaking another wrestler's arm, and after additional mishaps his parents send him to an alternative school. There, he meets other misfit kids with secret abilities, like Sophie, who can stick to walls, and Catherine, who has razor-sharp claws (and a temper). Unfortunately, Avery is also being dogged by Cherchette, a superpowered adult who aims to recruit Avery and his friends for her own purposes. Like the best superhero stories, Cross's novel has crisp action sequences and a good sense of humor, but also gets deep into the fears and struggles of teenagers who simply don't fit in. "Every single one of us has secrets," Avery reflects as the group grows more close-knit. "Only now we have them together." Ages 12-up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dull Boyby Sarah Cross
But then Avery makes some friends who are as extraordinary as he is. He realizes they?re more than just
What do you do if you can deadlift a car, and you spend your nights flying to get away from it all? If you?re fifteen-year-old Avery Pirzwick, you keep that information to yourself. When you?re a former jock turned freak, you can?t afford to let the secret slip.
But then Avery makes some friends who are as extraordinary as he is. He realizes they?re more than just freaks?together, maybe they have a chance to be heroes. First, though, they have to decide whether to trust the mysterious Cherchette, a powerful wouldbe mentor whose remarkable generosity may come at a terrible price.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by Sarah Cross
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Published in the United States by Dutton Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA)
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eISBN : 978-1-101-02480-5
For peter, Who ALWAYS SAVES the DAY —S.C.
MAYBE I NEED A costume.
Trust me—I don’t want to wear a costume. Skintight spandex isn’t really my thing, the ski-mask-plus-bathing-suit combo didn’t exactly inspire confidence when I tried it on (please forget I even mentioned that), and where am I supposed to find a leather jumpsuit? But at this point I have to consider all my options.
And before you start thinking I’m a complete freak, I should probably admit something:
I have superpowers.
When other guys my age stay up too late on a school night, they’re probably on Xbox Live or finishing some last-minute homework. Right? I’m in the garage with all the lights off, dead-lifting my mom’s car because I don’t have a three-thousand-pound weight set, and hoping she doesn’t notice. Or I’m soaring through the sky, flying under cover of darkness because night is the one time I can risk it. The only time I can really be myself.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t care what would happen if anyone knew the truth about me. But I do care. I have to keep this a secret. No one can know—not my parents, not my friends . . .
It’s just that it’s getting harder to hide it.
Now that I have these powers, I feel like I can’t shirk the responsibility that comes with them. If I can maybe make a difference, shouldn’t I be out there, giving it my all? I’ve been patrolling my town for weeks, looking for some way to be useful—and I’m getting antsy, more ambitious. Rescuing cats from trees is fine, but what about real emergencies, like flash floods and fires and people being held hostage? There’s only so much I can do while pretending to be normal.
IT’S FRIDAY—ANOTHER AFTERNOON spent pounding the pavement in search of crimes to stop and people to help. And, as usual, I’m coming up mostly empty.
School let out hours ago and it’s already getting dark. I cruise by the elementary school, scoping the playground for would-be vandals and thinking about everything I still need to do tonight. The place is empty, except for one little kid playing basketball by himself.
I stop to watch him.
The kid dribbles the ball against the pavement twice, then hurls it at the hoop, throwing his whole body forward. The ball sails wide. He chases after it, sniffles thanks to a monster runny nose, and wipes his face on his sleeve.
He’s totally oblivious, lost in what he’s doing. Pound-pound. Huhn! The ball hurtles toward the net, drops off before it even comes close. Sniff! He scrunches his face. Tries again.
I should get going—the closest I’ve come to doing anything useful was picking up and returning a dollar someone dropped, and I still have to buy something for Henry. But giving this kid a few pointers won’t take long. I’m no basketball star, but—
“Air ball!” A pack of rowdy fifth and sixth graders bound across the playground, laughing at triple volume like they’ve got someone to impress.
The kid tenses up, stops his basketball mid-bounce. Almost in sync, I rise from my stakeout spot. These guys are tiny to me, but they’re giants to the kid—I can tell by the way he shrinks back as they approach. I drift closer, hackles up like an angry guard dog.
Before I get there, my cell starts ringing, cranking out a tinny version of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”
wat u doin? It’s a text from Nate, my sort-of friend, the guy who weaseled his way into our group after he took my spot on the wrestling team—a spot he’d never have if I hadn’t voluntarily stepped down.
@libry talk ltr, I tap back.
He knows I’m supposedly at the library, thoroughly engrossed in my extra-credit science project. What’s up with bothering me? Henry’s surprise party isn’t till eight.
I bump the volume down on my phone—no more interruptions!—and glance up just in time to see the kid’s knees hit the pavement. When he tries to get up, the older guys shove him down again.
I cross the remaining distance in like three strides, jaw tight with my best vigilante scowl. I’m wearing all black; I have a ski cap pulled down over my eyebrows. I’m channeling Batman, protector of the playground instead of Gotham.
One of the bullies is kicking the little dude’s basketball around like it’s a soccer ball. It rolls over to me and I stop it with my foot.
“Hey! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”
I’m nowhere close to being their size, but whatever—it’s a classic line.
“Oooh, like you? I’m so scared.” The alpha bully rolls his eyes. He and his friends start snorting and flopping around, bumping into each other—I guess to, uh, insinuate that I’m retarded? They’re throwing out lines like, “You want me to leave him alone; come make me,” and “What are you, his girlfriend?”
“It’s cool,” I say, strolling closer. I toss the basketball into the air a few times—casually, like I’m messing around. But when it’s on its way down for the last time, I bring my hands together and pop it like a balloon.
Their tough, no-fear expressions crumble. “Oh, snap!”
All five take off across the playground. The alpha bully trips on his shoelaces and one of the other kids charges right over him; a third kid screams that his older brother’s gonna kick my ass—but he waits until he’s at least a hundred feet away from me to do it.
“You all right?” I say to the little kid. His head’s down, but he nods, sniffles; he’s busy examining the hole in his jeans. There’s blood on the frayed denim.
“You broke my basketball.” Sniff!
Oh. Crap. Yeah, I did, didn’t I?
“Sorry about that. I’ll buy you a new one, okay?” I crouch down next to him, dig out my wallet, and offer him twenty bucks—more than half of my buy-Henry-a-last-minute-birthday-gift budget.
Sniff! He smears his tears with the back of his hand. “I don’t want to play anymore. I’m too small.”
“Pff! Too small? You’re just getting started!” I ruffle his hair and he laughs, even though I’m pretty sure that’s an annoying gesture. “You might be eight feet tall one day!” He squints at me skeptically, and I grin. “Stranger things have happened.”
I extend a hand to help him up, and a sudden chill races down my spine, makes my body convulse.
It’s hitting me again.
I hunch my shoulders, tug my hat low so it covers my ears. The weather’s been almost “balmy” lately, according to my mom. But my body’s shaking like I got caught in a blizzard. My skin’s slicked with cold sweat.
I try to tell myself it’s because I need to eat, or I’m getting sick, but I know it’s not that simple. Something’s wrong with me.
“C’mon,” I say. “I’ll walk you home. And if any of those kids are waiting for you, they’ll have to deal with me.”
“Okay.” He takes my hand with his tiny, tear-covered one. “Thanks.”
Aww. See how nice that is?
For a second I forget that I’m a first-class deceiver, a destroyer of property and all-around screwup.
It doesn’t take long to be reminded. When I pull out my phone again, it’s full of texts from Nate and Milo, and a voice mail from my mom.
Mom: “Don’t be out too late! I want you up early tomorrow mowing the lawn. And I swear to God if you break the mower, Avery . . . (sigh) I’ve got a whole list of chores for you to do. Don’t think you’re not going to do EVERYTHING you can around here to pay back—”
I delete it; I already have that lecture memorized: she’s going to give me more hell about destroying Henry’s dad’s car, blah blah, hell, blah. Not that it was destroyed. I just . . . broke the door and shattered some windows when I slammed the door too hard. It was an accident. And it was totally his choice to buy a new one.
Nate: dude y r ur grdes so bad if ur alwys at libry? dont 4gt ur settng up 4 h’s bday. u got party stuff from lacey rt? h will luv bday banner n plates! so old school lol hllo were r u Av?
Milo: get ther erly it gets crwded u ther yet? wat u buy hm?
By the time I get the kid home, it’s almost seven; I’m supposed to be at Roast by seven-thirty so I can hang Henry’s “Happy Birthday” banner and set out all the party favors and “Happy Birthday from Pikachu!” plates and napkins and stuff. It’s kind of lame, but . . . I guess it’s supposed to be funny. I dunno; it was Nate’s idea.
I also have to buy Henry a present. This is important. Because even though Henry’s my best friend, I’ve blown him off a lot lately. Like, he’ll want to hang out and play Xbox, or practice moonsaults on his trampoline, but when he calls I’m halfway across town waiting for some crisis to occur, so I end up resorting to my I’m-studying-at-the-library lie.
But what’s the alternative? Tell him the truth?
Tell him that I quit wrestling after I broke Mike G.’s arm not because Coach made me, but because my strength was out of control and I was afraid I might hurt someone again?
And that, um, not only do I have powers, but that I feel like I need to do something good with them so I’m more than just a destructive force?
He’d think I was totally delusional. Or he’d make me show him, and then he’d believe me—but that would be worse. Because he’d brag to Milo and Nate. And then the news would be everywhere.
I can’t come clean and fix everything, but I don’t want Henry to think I’ve forgotten about him. We used to do a lot of cool stuff together. Like in seventh grade, when we plotted out this whole wrestling rivalry, and we put on WWE-style shows between classes. He’d hit me with a folding chair that we stole from the orchestra room, and I’d elbow drop him in the hallway. We spent a lot of time washing chalkboards that year, but it was worth it.
Those are some of my best memories. I’ve just been busy lately, and “all heroism, no play” means that the only “super” I’ve been to my friends lately is super lame. I need to make it up to them, to prove I’m not a deadbeat friend. I’m hoping a kick-ass birthday party will help.
Unfortunately, since I made that kid take the twenty bucks, most of my money’s gone and I have to go the cheap route and get Henry a bargain-bin Incredible Hulk T-shirt—and hope he just thinks it’s ironic. Then I zip home and climb in through my open window, grab some wrapping paper and the decorations, slap on some cologne—because hey, there will be girls there—and fly to Roast under cover of darkness, cutting through the woods or empty parking lots whenever possible.
I really shouldn’t be flying, but if I get there any later, Henry’s surprise will be ruined—and then I’ll really be screwed. My friends barely trust me to pull this off as it is. I just hope they appreciate it, because if anyone saw me flying, I would be dead. DEAD. Scientists would have me in a government lab in about five seconds, checking to see if my pee could cure cancer.
Vivisection leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Roast is crowded when I get there, just like Milo said it would be. Basically, every kid who doesn’t feel like going to Denny’s is here—late-night hangout options are slim. Tack on adults who don’t like sports bars, a scattering of poets, and you’ve got table availability that’s almost nil.
But I won’t be deterred. It’s Henry’s birthday; I’m on a mission.
I stake out a spot by the massive coffee roaster (it looks like a furnace, but smells better), and wait for a four-person table to open up—then, when it does, I pounce, throwing all my stuff down to claim it.
Paper Pikachu hats tumble out of the bag. A few sophisticated hipsters gape at me, appalled.
“Birthday party,” I explain. And then I ignore them.
I go to town decorating, setting out the matching paper plates, napkins, noisemakers—every ridiculous item you can imagine. Nate’s friend Lacey even stuffed a few balloons in the bag, so after I order something (a cupcake and a smoothie, so the manager doesn’t kick me out), I sit down and start blowing them up, tying them off, and then taping them to the table.
Awesome. Henry’s gonna pee his pants laughing.
I need permission to hang the birthday banner, so I pop one of the paper hats on my head and beeline to the nearest employee: a girl around my age who’s dressed all in black. She’s busy pushing a broom around, messy brown hair hanging in her face. I figure she won’t mind being interrupted.
“Hey, do you mind if I—”
“The sign-up list is over there,” she says, jerking her head toward the counter. In a . . . not-very-friendly way. “What? Aren’t you here for open-mike night?” Then she squints at my head. “What the hell are you wearing?”
Meet the Author
Sarah Cross used to spend all her babysitting money on comics, but because she couldn't draw very well, she decided as an adult that she'd write a superhero story in novel form. This is her first book. Sarah lives in New York, and you can visit her website and blog at www.sarahcross.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Avery lives for the darkness. Not for any deviant reason, but because he is less likely to be seen when he is flying around town. You see, Avery isn't like other kids. He has super-strength and can fly. Since these powers developed, his life has totally changed. His normal friends are pulling further and further away because he is spending less time with them. They're upset that he quit the wrestling team, but he really didn't have a choice. His strength was too hard to control during practices and matches. By trying to be a nice guy and save the day by using his powers for good, Avery sends his parents over the edge. They are already forking over a lot of money for his other unintentional damages and feel he is out of control. So his parents decide to send him to a special school for troubled kids. On his first day at the new school, Avery meets a strange girl. She ends up shedding a lot of light on the world for him. He discovers that he isn't the only one with special abilities and finds himself becoming part of another "family." One that understands him and his desire to help the world and not just waste his powers on frivolous thrills and ways to get into the spotlight. But, in any superhero story, there has to be an evil mastermind. In DULL BOY that evil mastermind is Cherchette, and she wants to gather all the kids with super-powers together. Why, you might ask? You'll have to read the book to find out. DULL BOY has it all - humor, friendship, family issues, a little romance, super-powers. What more could you ask for? As a reader, I completely fell in love with Avery. Sarah Cross leaves the reader completely satisfied, even though it is clear there will be a sequel.
With great power comes great responsibility, and with a deft and talented hand, Sarah Cross pulls her cast of young super heroes out of the realm of comics and into the world of YA novels. Forced into a school for delinquents after an incident involving a jewelry store and the frosty, mysterious Cherchette, Avery finds it hard to settle into a <I>dull boy</I> routine- and soon he discovers he's not the only teen in town who's hiding special abilities. This charming origins story captures the dynamic motion of graphic novels with a witty, conversational prose that often left me laughing or nodding along in rueful recognition. Cross has a gift for combining the right amounts of absurdity and realism, creating a world where detention and mecha battles are equally at home. As a long time comic geek, I also enjoyed the little sparkles of fan service in a book that is still utterly accessible superhero first-timers. I really enjoyed this, and I hope it becomes the first of many.
Dull Boy was a fun adventure into the world of superhero's and teenage angst. The whole book is told from first-person perspective- Avery. About a year ago Avery saved a little boys life by lifting a car off the boy's leg. That is when he first found out that he was "different". He is super-strong and can fly, but he can't tell anyone, so inevitably he feels different and not as close to his friends. Avery wants to make a difference in the world, like a real superhero, he wants to help people. After an accident with a fellow wrestler at a match, Avery is determined to be careful around people, to be helpful and not destructive. So every night he patrols his neighborhood hoping to get a chance to use his powers for good. When he meets Nicholas, Darla, Sophie, Catherine, and Jaques and finds out that Darla is a genius (literally), Sophie is like human tape, Nicholas can open a vortex in his chest, Jaques is an iceboy, and Catherine is cat-like, he feels relieved that he is not alone. Very quickly Darla, Avery, Sophie and Nicholas become good friends (Jaques is another story). Catherine grudgingly becomes friends with Sophie and Darla but her and Avery bond very early on, in a weird way (you have to read the book to understand). Together the friends form a team of crime fighting, patroling their neighborhoods and woods, hunting down injustice and coving it in glitter! But things start to go downhill when a woman named Cherchette tries to get them to come live with her so she can help them control their powers. But the friends are uneasy about this woman, and later finds out why, and how they came to have super powers. This was a page turner, hilarious (I loved Avery and Darla) and great fun. I hope the author writes a sequel because the ending is a cliff hanger!
Most teenagers think they are pretty special but Avery knows there's no one else just like him. And actually, he's right. Not only can he bench-press his mother's car (sometimes resulting in a little body damage) but Avery can actually fly - which of course he can't even tell a soul about since it would most likely result in a massive government investigation. Hey, I'd be worried about becoming a science experiment too. Feeling rather confused and alone, his parents send him to a reform school in hopes of curing his 'troublesome' behaviors, which only leads to more encounters with Big Dawg the bully and the Mary Janes (watch out, those girls will cut you for a Diet Coke). Fortunately, Avery meets up with some other not-so-average kids including a super-genius ready to conquer the world with robots, a super tough (and super grumpy) Catwoman, the Iceman, and Sticky Girl - who happens to also be Awfully Cute Girl. Together, these misfit teens decide to take the law into their own hands by tracking down muggers, rescuing lost boy scouts - while still making it home in time for curfew. If only they can continue to outwit the super creepy Cherchette [insert evil laugh here] who wants to take them and use them for her own nefarious purposes. Mwahaa! Avery is such a likable kid with his constant sarcasm and desire to 'use his powers for good.' He's just so dang lovable! He's just a teen trying to figure out things but once he gets matched up with the kooky Darla and her gang of merry misfits, he goes from loner to having some pretty funny adventures in a hurry. Usually the hilarity is due to some unfortunate accident or other while the gang tries to help some hapless victim while trying out some of Darla's prototype weapons. What other teenager has a boomerang that will cover someone in sparkles while simultaneously disabling them? Even if Dull Boy became somewhat predictable at times, Sarah Cross has effectively created a light and fun hero vs. villain adventure full of adventure and friendship. I quickly became attached to Avery and was totally cheering when he found some kindred spirits in Darla, Catherine, and Nicholas. Full of geektastic references (anyone else love X-Men and Batman?), Dull Boy strikes a nice balance between humor and action. Loved it. http://seemichelleread.blogspot.com