Review: iBoy by Kevin Brooks

This book is seriously difficult to review, because . . . um . . . I AM TORN BETWEEN AMAZING CHARACTERS AND SUPERPOWER ISSUES.

Let me explain.

iBoy is the story of a boy left powerless to speak out about the rampant crime in his South London housing estate - until an iPhone falls thirty stories into his head. And naturally, the electronic fragments give him superpowers.

Firstly, I need to talk about the brilliant stuff. Crow Town, the housing project split in two by gangs, was portrayed just right: gritty, drug-saturated and dangerous. I have no experience of that sort of thing, but to me it felt like a real place that corrupted real people. Reading about characters that stayed 'good' in that toxic an environment was part of why I liked them so much.

Did I just say 'like'? I meant squee over and ship fiercely.

Tom cared about Lucy so much it almost literally spilled over the pages, and she was so, so brave - anyone would need to be after what happened to her. Other than that, I can't tell you why Brooks' characters were so vibrant and rich and alive. That's just how they came across.
(I will also take a moment here to mention Grams. Any grandmother who raises her orphaned grandson on the wrong side of the tracks while writing romance novels wins in my book.)

And now, the stuff I didn't like so much. Dare I say it ever so slightly ruined an amazing book?

Tom's superpowers were just ludicrous.

Yes, I get that a little leap of faith is needed to grasp the book's premise, but Tom soon started to have powers way beyond that of an iPhone. Did I miss the stabproofing upgrade? And I'm sorry, but there's no way electricity can unlock a physical padlock.

I liked most of the newspaper extracts, quotes and formulas, too, but maybe the iPhone 3GS spec was a bit too much? And I'm not that fussed about profanity - in fact, it's probably vital in bringing settings like this to life - but you'll need an F-bomb vest. Not that these things matter as much as the whole superpowers-overly-super thing.

*whispers* I also worked out what Tom's superhero weakness (they all have one) was going to be between fifty and a hundred pages in.
All that said, don't avoid picking up this book because of my grumbling. You'd miss out on beautifully developed characters, skillfully bringing a setting to life, and - if you're into that sort of thing - a classic, slightly far-fetched superhero fix.
***

In the comments: Am I on my own with overdramatic superheroes? When do you think it works? And when have authors annoyed you by taking suspension of disbelief too far?
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