Bitter Sixteen, by Stefan Mohamed, is the first book in a proposed fantasy trilogy for young adults. It introduces the reader to Stanly Bird, a cynical schoolboy who discovers on his sixteenth birthday that he has gained the powers of flight and telekinesis. As his closest companion is a talking beagle this is daunting but not as surprising as it might have been for someone else.
Stanly is a perceptively written, introspective teenager, a loner who has cultivated a brooding, mysterious persona that enables him to keep his peers at bay. His parents worry about his lack of friends but Stanly believes that they have enough problems of their own and has little patience with such concerns.
Having grown up alongside the fictional worlds of superheroes and computer games Stanly questions how he should use his new and burgeoning abilities. Living in a remote Welsh town there seems little scope for saving the world. He is also aware that it would be dangerous to let others know of his powers. He has no wish to be studied for scientific purposes or forced to fight for those with an agenda of their own.
Just as it seems that Stanly’s personal life may be looking up he is forced to flee to London where he discovers that he is not the only person with superpowers. He also discovers that his abilities are not as secret as he had believed. Thanks to his new friends he finds work in a comic book store. He battles monsters, both human and supernatural. He must also circumvent the adults who see him as a bad influence on his girl.
What sets this book apart from others in the genre is the quality and style of the writing. Stanly is a fabulous creation and is presented with such wit and humour that his exploits are a joy to read. Having superpowers is weird, dangerous but also fun, especially the flying bit.
Although written for young adults I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, proving once again that a good book is for any reader. The denouement was poignant but fitting; the story is concluded but I am so glad that there is a second book in this series due soon. Stanly Bird is not a character I wish to say goodbye to yet.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Salt.