May was born 13 months after her older sister, April. Baby sister June came along 13 months later. Though they sometimes got on each other's nerves - such is the life of close-knit close-born siblings - they always got along. So did their parents.
Fast forward fourteen years, where the story begins. The girls' parents are separated, and as their father readies to move to Houston, all three girls move from Orange County, California to the Valley with their mother. The night before their first day of school, bubbly June is excited about being a freshman; the unmoved middle child May tunes into her iPod to tune out her inquisitive little sister; and eldest girl April wants to throttle her sisters when they bug her and misses them when they leave her room.
A few weeks later, something extraordinary happens, something both frightening and delightful: the girls suddenly develop unnatural abilities...or perhaps they are natural - natural to them - as June is convinced this is a reawakening of skills they had as young children. Each girl has a power which suits her, for better or worse, and which she uses, for better or worse, to varying degrees of success and distress. Curious June can read people's minds, and while she uses this insight to get chummy with the popular crowd, she realizes that people aren't always as nice as they seem. May becomes invisible, but not always at will much less fully from head to toe. April sees things that haven't happened yet, and her visions include some horrible things that are horribly unclear.
Having such abilities can be frustrating. Confusing. Awkward. Illuminating. Uncomfortable. Amazing. Earth-shattering. Just like a test can be frustrating. Just like being a teenager can be confusing. Just like having your first crush can be awkward.
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June by Robin Benway will appeal to those who like their superpowered-stories served up alongside a healthy dose of real life -- perhaps like the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer minus the monsters. AM&J's powers are tied to their emotions and their minds; their actions, strengths, and defenses have nothing to do with weapons (or capes, though June might wear one if it was trendy and matched her outfit). As much as I like a good story about superheroes and villains, I tend to prefer stories in which characters hold powers which reflect themselves, and the monsters they have to defeat are internal. Stories such as this.
This is a story of sisters. They challenge each other, they bicker, they call each other out, they keep secrets, they share truths, and they stick together. As the girls attempt to gain control over their abilities, they grow as individuals, and they grow closer.
Robin Benway's Extraordinary second novel is just as good as her 2008 debut, Audrey, Wait! While the plots are quite different - Audrey, Wait! had music and public fame where April, May & June has powers - both books are great. Great dialogue, great interaction between characters, great pacing, nice reveals. Towards the end of April, May & June, the sisters have an incredible fight which is a wonderful example of Benway's realistic writing. That scene with the girls' verbal disagreement is just as loud and as tense and as frank as it needs to be, and novelists and screenwriters would be wise to take note of it.
Throughout the book, the girls tell their story in first person narrative in alternating chapters. Each chapter begins with a quote which appears later in that chapter. each girl's voice is clear and distinct, ringing true to her personality and her age while sharing her thoughts with her sisters and the reader. Some examples:
April, page 157: "Fridays are my favorite." They weren't. I like Thursdays better because then you still get the anticipation of Fridays, but that wasn't important at the moment.
May, page 45, in response to her peer tutor, Henry, calling her "one of those girls" when she shows a lack of interest in her schoolwork: I bristled. "Well, if by 'those girls,' you mean one of those awesome and amazing girls that are light years beyond their peers but unfortunately stuck in high school due to circumstances beyond their control, then yes, I am one of 'those girls.' Wanna join?"
June, page 95: If there's one thing I've learned from being a fourteen-year-old girl, it's that entire social structures can be dismantled and rebuilt in less than thirty seconds. It's kind of like playing Jenga every single day, only with people's lives instead of wooden pegs.
My favorite quote from the novel comes towards the end, so I'll protect it: I hugged my sisters, and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn't imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself. - April, page 259
Interview: Robin Benway
Vlog: Greetings from Audrey Benway
Book Review: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
Booklist: Multiple Narrators