Sunday, November 3, 2013

A School Filled with Super Villains, King of Bad by Kai Strand, Excerpts and Giveaway

Imagine with me. You’re the new kid in high school. Some of your classes are easy, some are hard. Teachers are mostly cranky. Passing periods are a sea of kids all focused on themselves and maybe their immediate friends. You are jostled and wrangled, but largely ignored. The lunchroom is a cacophony of echoing noise. It consists of tightly knit groups. Either you are sneered at, sized up or completely unseen. Scan the cafeteria. All those teenagers. Laughing, eating. One punches a tablemate on the shoulder; another tosses a grape at the ear of a kid at a different table.

Looking at all those kids – now imagine they are all super villains.

When Jeff Mean first walks into the gymnasium at Super Villain Academy, he finds kids practicing their super power abilities. It is the first time he sees other kids with powers and there he stands in a room full of them:

(excerpt: King of Bad)

The girl had a large bucket in front of her. Her face was contorted with concentration, but Jeff couldn’t see anything happening. Then all at once a geyser of water burst toward the ceiling and it fell back down on the assemblage in a misty rain. The girl’s face broke into an exultant smile as the dripping kids groaned and grumbled around her.
“Wow, that’s really hard to do,” Pyro said, “break an element into so many little particles. She’ll have a headache later.”
  A nondescript boy, tall and lanky with hair the same sandy color as his skin, approached the girl. He smiled at her as they talked, but the girl stood stiff with a forced smile. All the dripping kids eyed him nervously. A puddle on the floor near the boy gradually receded. The kids’ clothes stiffened as though dried on a clothesline. When everything around him was dry, the sand-colored boy clapped the girl on the back and returned to sit alone, on the bleachers.

He learns that some kids have no control over their powers at first and have to be quarantined until they develop the abilities to manage their powers or undo them. Later he loses control, too:

(excerpt: King of Bad)

Jeff was surprised to find they’d walked all the way to the market. “Hey, you want something to drink?”
“No thanks.”
“I’m just gonna grab a quick soda.” Jeff swung the door to the market open just as a guy pushed his way out. The two collided and the bag the guy had been holding dropped to the ground. The telltale shatter of glass made Jeff wince. “Sorry, dude.”
“What are you thinking?” the guy yelled. “Are you blind? Or is everyone supposed to get out of your way?”
“Dude, I said I’m sorry. It was only an accident.”
The guy’s face bloomed with angry purple splotches. “Yeah, you’re sorry. That helps! You’re an idiot, that’s what you are.”
Anger coursed through Jeff. Before he knew what he was doing a blaze of flame shot out and caught the spilled bag and its contents afire.
Jeff and the guy jumped away from the sudden inferno between them. Pyro stepped in front of Jeff and grabbed a handful of his shirt. “Time to go, kid.”
Jeff looked at her in shock. “Did I do that?”
Pyro gave him a warning look.
Jeff saw that the guy had run back into the store. Pyro skipped away, dragging him with her. “Let’s go.” She released him when he finally sped up to catch her. They bolted like lightning. The excitement seemed to stimulate the fire within Jeff. His hands felt like they were going to erupt lava.
“Pyro, my fingers!”
They skidded to a stop. Jeff barely registered that they’d already traveled at least four blocks away from the market. He gritted his teeth against the throbbing heat in his fingers. He expected each engorged tip to pop like an over filled pimple.
Pyro reached out to touch his glowing fingertips, but pulled her hands back at the last second. “Blow on them!”
Jeff puffed and spit on his fingers, grunting against the stabbing pain.
“No, no, no! Use the ice, Jeff. Where does the ice come from?” Pyro’s hands hovered around his like she wanted to help, but knew she didn’t dare touch him.
“I don’t know.” Jeff looked between her and his fingers, but the pulsating heat made it difficult for him to think clearly.
A siren blast startled both Jeff and Pyro. They swung toward it, ready for flight, but the police car sped through the nearby intersection and away from them. Pyro searched their surroundings. They were in a typical suburban neighborhood. Every third house looked alike; boats or R.V.’s were parked alongside garages. Basketball hoops or skateboard ramps on the streets.
“Come on!” Pyro grabbed Jeff by the arm and pulled him up a nearby driveway and across a front lawn. She pushed him in front of her and shoved him over until his hands plunged blessedly into a cool fountain of water. A hissing steam issued as his hands entered the pool. The relief was welcome, but not complete. The heat from his hands warmed the water faster than the water cooled his hands. But it was enough to help Jeff get his concentration back.
“The lungs.” He held his dripping hands in front of his mouth and drew a breath from deep in his lungs. He blew slowly onto his hands and a crystalline frost coated his fingers. He giggled giddily in relief. “Oh man, thanks, Pyro.”
“There they are, officer!”
For a second time, Pyro and Jeff swung around in surprise. Two police officers walked toward them. One had his hand resting on his holster.
Pyro and Jeff looked at each other and understood that it was time to bolt. Pyro bobbed her head ever so slightly to the left and they ghosted to the fence surrounding the neighboring backyard. Pyro cleared the six foot fence in one jump, but Jeff vaulted over less gracefully. They heard the amazed cries behind them as they jumped the fence on the far side of the yard and raced off through the baseball field of the Lutheran school.

After that incident, it takes little to convince Jeff that he needs to attend Super Villain Academy, where you learn to be good at being bad. But as he settles in he learns that the word “friend” isn’t in the villain dictionary and that his sudden and unexpected increase in good manners draws bullies like flies to a dung heap.  The more he’s ostracized, the more he wonders is bad enough for SVA?

About the book:

Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.

He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?

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Catherine Lee said...

Super Villain Academy..."Where you learn to be good at being bad." I love that line!
catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

Kai Strand said...

Lol. Someone has to teach the bad guys! Right?