Eighteen-year-old Aidan Salt isn’t a superhero. With his powerful (and unpredictable) telekinetic abilities he could be one if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. He’s unambitious, selfish, and cowardly, and he doesn’t want to have to deal with all the paperwork required to become a professional superhero. But since the money, fame, and women that come with wearing the cape are appealing, he decides to become the first supervillain the world has seen in more than twenty years: Apex Strike.
However, he soon finds villainy in a world where the heroes have long since defeated all the supervillains. While half the world’s heroes seem to want him dead, the other half want to hire him as their own personal villain to keep them relevant. Choosing the latter course, Aidan enters a world of fame, fortune, and staged superhero fights that is seemingly everything he ever dreamed of . . . at least until he sees what truly hides behind the cape-and-mask lifestyle.
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Carter's quirky riff on the coming-of-age novel depicts a superhero-dominated world history with a bumptious potty-mouthed narrator named Aidan Salt, from Hacklin's Hall, Ind. Eighteen and full of teenage rebellion, Aidan discovers his super powers and dons the moniker Apex Strike to train with other wannabe supervillains, in order to become worthy opponents and justify the demand for superheroes. Half of this sporadically amusing strung-out caper deals with Aidan's stomach-wrenching boot camp experiences on Death Island (the location of which is never specified), resulting in celebratory drug- and hormone-fueled wallows. The rest presents equally noisome choreographed melee between heroes and villains, harrowing drug withdrawals, and Aidan's gradual realization that opting out of high school mediocrity by adopting the supervillain lifestyle isn't the nirvana he'd expected. After all of Aidan's overheated adolescent wish fulfillments, Carter's simplistic ending seems deflated; a whimper instead of the roar Aidan/Apex had hoped would change his world.