Ordinary Ordinary Series Book 1 by Starr Z. Davies Genre: YA Sci-Fi Dystopian
Fans of Powerless, The Testing, Hunger Games and the Maze Runner will crave this world of iniquitous secrets, intrigue, and desire to find a place in society.
Divinic. Somatic. Psionic. Naturalist. Who will you be?
Having a superpower is ordinary. Your Power determines your job, social class, and future success.
But Ugene doesn’t have a Power. The only thing special about him is that he isn’t special at all. Ugene is Powerless.
So when the most prominent biomedical research company in the city offers Ugene a solution, he jumps at the possibility to be ordinary. All he has to do is agree to allow them to use him in their research. But the longer he stays at the research facility, the more he realizes something isn't right.
Friendships are forged. Trust is broken built and broken. And everything Ugene thought he understood and believed is called into question.
Who can Ugene trust in his search for answers? What is he willing to sacrifice for Powers?
Three days define who a person will be for the rest of their life. The day they are born. Testing Day, where their abilities are determined. And, of course, Career Day, where social status, wealth, and future prospects are decided for them by an exhibition hall of employers.
I passed my birth with great pains. According to stories Mom told me, my labor gave her particular difficulty. After arriving too soon, too weak to survive on my own, I lived in an incubator for the first six weeks of my life in a struggle to survive. It’s why she sometimes—annoyingly—calls me, “tough guy.”
Up until Testing Day, everyone—from my teachers to my neighbors—called me a late bloomer and constantly reassured my parents that eventually I would fall into one of the Four Branches of Powers. They said it as if doing so was something I would just stumble over on the sidewalk one day and say, “Oh look, there’s my Power!”
Testing Day came early in my ninth year of schooling, alongside everyone else in my class. Those who had already developed their ability were divided into groups based on their Branch of Power: Somatic for Powers relating to the body; Naturalist for those with organic Powers; Psionic for the Power of the mind; and Divinic for those with Powers outside our world. Mostly, this division left me and three other kids—Mo, Dave, and Leo—uncategorized. By the end of the day, only I remained unclassified. Testing Day was a bitter disappointment for everyone in my family— including me.
Ordinary people have Powers and prospects. I have neither.
Now I face Career Day, where I get to parade around a convention center with all the other doeeyed, eleventh-year students and try to convince businesses why my Power is worth employment. Except I still don’t have one, and probably never will.
I’ve dreaded this day for years. Now, there’s no escaping it.
Miraculously, my parents haven’t given up on me. They still hold on to the hope that everything is about to change.
For all our sakes, I hope they are right.
STARR Z. DAVIES is a Midwesterner at heart, and lives in Wisconsin with her husband and kids. From a young age, Starr has been obsessed with superheroes like Batman and Captain America, which inspired her novel, ORDINARY. If Starr had a superpower, she would be an Empath, because she is an emotional sponge and easily relates to how others feel.
While pursuing a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, Starr gained a reputation as the “Character Assassin” because she has a habit of utterly destroying her characters both emotionally and physically.
In her free time, Starr loves watching Doctor Who or anything with superheroes, reading books (duh!), writing about her favorite fantasy stories (Song of Ice and Fire, Mistborn, The Wheel of Time), and staring out the window as she dreams up more stories. Oh, and sometimes she steps out the door.
The Inspiration for Ordinary
Ordinary was born from a game my husband, stepson, and I used to play. We would sit in the living room and just come up with “what-if” scenarios. One of those was: “What if there was a boy who lived in a world where everyone had a superpower but him, and the only job he could get was delivering flowers by bicycle?” Obviously, the idea evolved quite a bit from there in my own mind.
It took a few more years before I actually started planning the book. I was in undergrad taking a fiction class and we had to begin writing a book that we shared in small groups to critique. While I had a few book ideas, the concept for Ordinary really took hold with others. They loved the reversal of the hero being someone without special powers instead of someone with them. So I wrote a first draft—and it was terrible. A total mess. But I was determined to finish it, so I joined a writer’s group who helped me identify the problems and sort them out. Then I rewrote the book—twice—before I was satisfied with the final product.
What Comes After the Ordinary Trilogy?
While I still have two books for the Ordinary trilogy to complete, I already have several irons in the fire for what comes next. First, I’ve had an idea since I was in undergrad for a book or series—I’m not sure yet—that takes place in the late 15th century Mongolia. It will be a blend of historical and fantasy fiction. It’s about a young woman who is forced into an arranged marriage, and she has to find out how she fits into this new world she’s been thrust into. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but without giving too much away right now, that’s the best, boiled down description I have to offer.
Another set of series I’ve been working on worldbuilding for a long time is more of a hard epic fantasy than young adult—think along the lines of the brutality and character depth of Songs of Ice and Fire. The first series is about a seemingly endless war between two brothers, and how their decisions affect not only the people around them, but the survival of the world itself. The second series takes place about a hundred years after that one, and shows how people are still working on recovering from the fallout of that war. These will probably be a few years off still, but I’m excited about the journey.
Exclusive Side Stories for the Ordinary Trilogy
Can I share a secret? People who enjoy Ordinary will want to sign up for my newsletter to get a free short story about Dr. Joyce Cass and her rise to power—a story you can only get from my newsletter. It’s not available anywhere else, and it won’t be there forever.
The story is called Superior. I wrote it as an exploration of Dr. Cass’s character (as a villain) so that I could better understand her motivation. It also sheds some light on a few of the characters readers will see in the rest of the Ordinary trilogy.
I’m also considering writing a short story about one of Ugene’s closest friends—though I don’t want to spoil who it is or what the story is about. If I do, the story will only be available to those on my email list. I will send it out to current subscribers, and offer it as a signup bonus for new subscribers. So if readers aren’t on my newsletter list yet, they should consider signing up to get these side stories.
On Writing Ordinary and the Fantastic Characters
Writing a book is like taking a really long journey with a new group of people, only to discover you’re great friends at the end. But sadly, it’s the end. I enjoyed a lot about writing this book: delving into this strange and different world; challenging myself to come up with unusual solutions to ordinary problems; forming a connection with the characters.
I’m the sort of reader that loves great characters, and the characters in Ordinary definitely stood out to me. Ugene often made me laugh, bringing his clever wit to the table even in grim situations. He really evolved as a character as well, finding his footing along the way. I enjoyed writing that and giving him the freedom to take the right path. Miller is the snarky, distant guy who insists he wants to be left alone while simultaneously throwing himself into situations right alongside Ugene. Celeste is a reclusive dreamer who speaks in riddles that make perfect sense to her, even if no one else understand what they mean. Bianca is that typical out-of-reach girl who Ugene pines over, and she sees herself as Ugene’s self-appointed protector.
The cast in the book is actually pretty big, and all of the characters within that cast have their own unique qualities to bring to the table. While most of them have nothing in common, they all trust in Ugene, even when he doesn’t trust in himself.
What Makes Ugene Tick: A Character Analysis
Ugene Powers is the nerdy, weak boy in the corner of the classroom that no one really notices until he says or does something that makes him shine. When everyone else developed their Power, Ugene watched and waited. But nothing happened for him. The lack of Power caused a rift between him and his father, and the two are constantly at odds with each other.
Because of his lack of Power, Ugene spends a lot of time learning about what causes Powers and how those Powers are part of the DNA. He’s probably the most well-read seventeen-year-old in the city. He studied all the research and studied himself to try and find out why he wasn’t like everyone else. This hunt for answers gave him the exact ammunition he needs later in the book and the series. Ugene can see things that most others can’t because he has learned to adapt, and he knows about as much as he can about Powers.
Though Ugene is great at solving puzzles and putting together pieces when others can’t, he isn’t so great at one-on-one relationship—particularly with girls. Ugene has a lot of compassion for others, but he doesn’t always know how to communicate properly. I feel like this combination of strengths and weaknesses makes him a really unique character to follow.
The Origins of the Ordinary Trilogy Titles
Finding the right title for a book is tricky business. It needs to paint a picture of what to expect, while also reflecting on the main characters. A lot of authors struggle with this, but titles seem to come naturally to me.
Coming up with the title for Ordinary seemed obvious. Ugene only wants to fit in and be ordinary, and everything he suffers through in the book is in pursuit of that goal. The title came to me almost immediately, as did the titles for the rest of the books: Extraordinary; Unique. Each of these titles shares a goal or clue about what to expect in the book, and what sort of journey Ugene undertakes in each book.
What author doesn’t love casting their characters in a film? Seeing a book turned into a film (with good interpretations like Hunger Games or Harry Potter) is the dream of just about every author I’ve ever met. If I had casting choices for Ordinary, I would choose these actors—or actors similar to them.
-Ugene played by Justice Smith. After watching him in Detective Pikachu, there was really no one else for the role. He’s perfect in every way.
-Bianca Pond played by Auli'i Cravalho (Moana). I haven’t seen her in any live-action shows or films, but her voice acting in Moana was outstanding, and she is almost the perfect image of what Bianca looked like in my mind.
-Miller played by Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four). He has the ideal look and attitude to pull off a great Miller!
-Enid played by Ashely Boettcher (Alone Together). Ashley has the stunning but girl-next-door look that I imagined Enid has—a simple, down-to-earth look. It’s easy to see her as beautiful, even if her character doesn’t see it herself.
-Celeste played by Emily Carey (Wonder Woman). She has the youthful face and wide-eyed innocence that goes with Celeste’s character, and she has the ability to play a tough character as well.
-Forrest Pond played by Wilmer Valderrama (NCIS). He looks young enough, but also is clearly older than the others, and his acting chops are great for a role like this.
-Dr. Joyce Cass played by Sienna Miller (Layer Cake). This woman has the chops and can pull off the perfect balance of severe and sincere.
I share a complete casting of all the characters in the series on my Pinterest board. Check that out!
Why You Must Read Ordinary
I’ve read a lot of young adult and fantasy books, and in almost every one of them the hero of the story has some greater power than the other characters. Sometimes it’s based on magic, or some sort of alteration to their DNA. Sometimes it just happens because of who their parents are. The characters are thrown into a situation outside of their comfort zone and have to find a way to survive.
While Ordinary isn’t so different from those stories, it also isn’t the same. Ugene doesn’t throw himself out of his comfort zone—he loves Power-based research and wanted to work for Paragon—and he doesn’t have a superpower that makes him special. Instead, he uses his brain, finds the logic in various situations, and solves the puzzle to get out of those situations. Early readers compared him to a post-apocalyptic Sherlock Holmes.
Ugene is also a bit of a reluctant hero. People gravitate toward him and listen to him even when he doesn’t understand why, but his natural ability to see things with clarity that others lack, and his compassion for others, draws people to him.
I also loved the idea that Ugene isn’t super powerful like most of the heroes in these sorts of stories tend to be. He has no real power at all, yet he still has to find a way to escape his situation against all odds. After all, how does someone with no power stand up to those with powers?
Favorite Scene Edited out of Ordinary, and How the Book Changed on Rewrites
Writing and editing is a trying process. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into creating a great novel. Sometimes, that means cutting out sections of scenes that end up no working for the flow of the plot. In the case of Ordinary, it was actually most of the book. While there are still tidbits of that first draft blended in, most of the story has changed. At first, Ugene underwent a series of grueling tests against each of the Four Branches of Powers. Some were simple smell tests, while others were much more intense.
A favorite that ended up getting cut out of the book was this scene where Ugene is in the hospital wing with Forrest, and there’s a man dying on one of the beds. Forrest just steps back and says, “Fix him” without offering any sort of guidance. Ugene has no medical training and no healing abilities, so he flounders and watches as the guy dies while Forrest does nothing at all to help. The scene was intense, but it ended up not working with the way the story went during rewrites.
Most of the changes were made because the situation wasn’t challenging enough, and the ending wasn’t satisfying enough. Ugene just couldn’t properly transform under the circumstances he was initially put through, but after making serious adjustments, that quickly changed.
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