Oh well, I'm home anyway.
So while watching Agents of Shield and lamenting the many Almost Awesome things about it, I started casually wondering who I'd most like to run into Coulson's team. And given at least half of them are hardcore skeptics about ESP and anything paranormal, the first thing that popped into my head was the six psychic protagonists of a book called Hidden Talents and its sequel, True Talents.
Gods I loved those books as a thirteen year old.
So this kid named Martin is expelled for a third time from public school (actually a rather difficult feat if you aren't committing felonies) and is sent to an alternative middle school called Edgeview. He meets four other boys (all with indicative nicknames that are actually filled with black, black sarcastic humor if you think about it) and befriends them and he eventually figures out that they, as well as another kid whose unfortunate nickname is Trash (he trashes things) are psychic, and because they aren't aware or in control of their powers, they keep acting out and have all been thrown out of various schools.
Rereading as an adult, the metaphor for neuroatypical students slipping through the cracks is pretty unsubtle. And also, in hindsight, hell yeah I identified with Martin as a young teen.
He's constantly angry and possessed of massive trust issues, in part because his father is an abusive prick of the sort that doesn't get spotted because his abuse is all psychological. He's also an empath with the ability to sense people's greatest prides and deepest shames, but he spends most of the book, like his friends, unaware of it because for the most part, this manifests as sarcasm and backtalk. The reason he's been disciplined so severely is because he's been ripping people raw whenever anyone tries to get close to him. It's, um, kind of awful to watch really.
The other five boys have equally depressing backstories and reasons for being at Edgeview. Cheater is a Gifted kid who's always in trouble for (as his name implies) cheating on tests and in-class assignments. He's actually telepathic, but doesn't have any way of blocking other people's thoughts, and no way of recognizing which are really his. He's very proud and very defensive of his intelligence, and actually has a minor breakdown after getting a test back with another F, confused and hurt that everyone assumes he cheated.
Torchie starts fires. (Look, I said their nicknames were indicative. Middle school boys are perhaps uncreative when picking them). His constant chorus line is "I didn't do nuthin'; the double negative doesn't exactly help his case. He's pyrokinetic and again, has no idea what's happening or why he always gets the blame. As far as he knows, it's just the world's weirdest coincidence that wherever he goes, so follow small fires and the scent of burnt paper.
Flinch can see about 15-30 seconds into the future, and so anticipates his teacher's questions and cuts them off with answers. He's quite jumpy. Great at dodgeball, though. I'm actually kind of amazed that no one in-universe misdiagnosed him with ADHD.
Lucky has perhaps the most bitterly ironic nickname of the lot, and also probably the most tragic personal story of any of them, though all of the boys get put through hell before the two books' end. Lucky finds lost or hidden things, and remember what I said about nicknames also being full of bitter humor and weighted in-jokes? ...Yeah, Lucky's about the least lucky person in this series. He finds hidden things because they call out to him in his head, whisper his name and then shout if he tries to ignore it, and the only way to make the voices stop is to pick up the lost thing--something that won't cut it if the thing is valuable and it looks like Lucky stole it. Terrible things happen to Dominic Calabrizi (his full name). Awful, nightmarish things.
And then, oh Trash. Oh gods, Trash. This poor, neglected, beaten down fifteen year old breaks my heart. He's telekinetic and has next to no idea, other than being aware that things have a tendency to break whenever he gets near them, and then he gets accused of vandalism and throwing things. It starts when he's eight. By the time Martin meets him it's gotten so bad that stuff routinely flies off the walls or into them and no one wants to get within fifteen feet of him, because everyone thinks he's the nutcase who won't ever stop throwing things. Unlike Cheater and Torchie and Lucky, who defensively insist that it's not their fault, Trash is completely resigned to being hated and ostracized by everyone, and doesn't ever bother to assert himself and try and prove his innocence. Aaaaand then True Talents happens.
By the end of the first book, Trash has made his five new friends, and has a reasonable amount of control of his powers. Book number two opens with Trash drugged up to the eyeballs in a lab, having lost close to nine months in a haze of torture and experimentation, only to escape and find that everyone he knows thinks he's dead. Shit only continues to get worse. Lucky has a breakdown after getting transferred to a new high school and hearing thousands of voices coming from the concrete, having had a huge box of little plastic army men dumped into the mixer coincidentally by the same man who kidnapped Trash. Lucky ends up institutionalized, kept on doses of anti-psychotics strong enough to muffle the voices but also leave him in a fuzzy, incoherent haze. At the end of Hidden Talents, Martin goes home, but the book leaves the reader a reminder that he's still going home to an abusive father and a powerless mother and sister. This comes back in a big way when Martin loses his temper at his father and storms out of the house, with nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes on his back.
It's really somewhat dizzying how much different the two books are. One deals with the problems of bullies and bad teachers in a high school setting, and the stakes are over the school possibly getting shut down and the boys getting transferred elsewhere. The second deals with kidnapping and murder and rogue military forces trying to harm six (relatively) harmless, innocent kids. And really, both books have copious amounts of nightmare fuel, in drastically different ways. Between the boys' utter despair and self-loathing and combined mistrust of authority figures, even those trying to help them, to Trash's abduction and subsequent attempts to cope with his trauma and escape and Lucky, proud, angry, defensive Lucky spending most of the book in a stupor, good Christ were these books more horrifying than I remember them. And really quite gripping.
And hmm, I could easily see Martin and Trash ending up a couple sometime in the future. They both immediately think to go to each other when they're both on the run and in trouble, they trust each other almost unquestioningly, and they do seem to be closer to each other even within the group as a whole. Not only that, but Martin was the one person who talk to Trash or even acknowledge him in Hidden Talents, and Trash thinks of him as his first real friend because of that. And they even briefly (and in Martin's case, semi-seriously) contemplate stealing a car and running away together, to just escape the hell they find themselves in, in True Talents.
But mostly I just sat and read both books (they're short reads) and sort of cried and went booooooooooooooooys at them a lot. Because they are tragic and adorable and self-destructive and my boooooooooooooooys...
And yeah, I totally see how I might ID with an angry kid who burns all of his bridges in ways specifically about school as a thirteen year old.