Being a teenager is a cocktail of hormones at the best of times, but dealing with all that on top of superpowers? Definitely cause for getting… overemotional.
Pitched to prospective punters as Heartstopper meets Stranger Things, Overemotional follows Stephen, a closeted teenage boy who’s dealing with several major issues in his life – he’s hiding his sexuality, he’s dealing with turbulent emotion-based powers, and he’s just kissed his first boy, resulting in the boy’s head literally detonating due to the aforementioned powers running in reverse (e.g. Stephen destroys when he feels joy, fixes when he feels sadness etc.). As a result of the latter, Stephen flees to the sleepy town of Grunsby-on-sea, pursued by his best mate Freya, herself followed by her boyfriend Marcus and their American classmate Troy, in time for the four to uncover a sinister plot brewing in the depths of the seaside town.
From the outset, there’s a freshness and sprightliness to Fenne’s writing in Overemotional that’s to be commended, ensuring that even when scenes are more focused on interpersonal dynamics than the plot, there’s a lightness of touch to be found. Fenne is unafraid of bouncing around first-person POVs within the same chapter (heck even within the same scene) and it ensures that we get plenty of perspectives to see the story from. With respect to Stephen, he can be a bit (pun very much intended) overemotional, so getting to drop into the head of the delightful Freya is a joy, although there is a clunkyness to some of the internal dialogue (such as Troy’s on-the-nose Americana references).
It’s a shame that Overemotional (ostensibly the first book in a series) is relatively thin on plot. Like any sci-fi story worth its salt, there’s a mysterious scientific society, a handsome mentor, and a collection of weird energy monsters that may or may not be linked to a spate of historical disappearances around Grunsby-on-sea, but it loses precedence to the emotional beats, primarily involving Stephen coming to terms with himself and finding himself in a romantic quandary. It’s all quite wholesome and soft when compared to other YA stories (although again, a cute boy’s head does explode on page one), which is both a blessing and a curse, depending upon the reader’s taste.
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A little too lightweight in parts and suffering from some problems in setting up a new series, with some characters (such as Marcus) feeling a bit sketched thin as a result, Overemotional is still an enjoyable, breezy and joyously queer adventure into YA urban fantasy, anchored by a core cast of likeable leads and palatable plot. Hopefully the next instalments of the series will dive deeper into the world created, as Fenne has set the foundations of what could be the next big queer series out of the UK, and deserves to be a homegrown hit.
Overemotional is out on 6th July from Ink Road.