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Thriller with superpowered teens has coming-of-age appeal.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Some details of Army life emerge as Aubrey and Jack learn about following orders and taking ribbing from other members of their unit.

Positive messages

Loyalty is all-important to Aubrey and Jack, two teens who volunteer to gather information on terrorists, as they have to figure out whom to trust in a shadowy world. They pledge to look out for each other early on, and keeping the pledge proves crucial to their survival.

Positive role models

Aubrey Parsons, desperate to be popular in high school, uses her newfound power of invisibility to shoplift cute clothes and spy on cliques, but she proves to be the moral center of the novel as she discovers that being loyal to her friend, the equally unpopular Jack, saves them both. Aubrey and Jack generously volunteer to use their powers to help combat terrorists. 


A guard and a teen are shot to death in the opening pages, though the descriptions are not graphic. Some soldiers die in a landslide and a man is crushed against a tree. Otherwise, the violence is fairly distant and muted. A virus-finding medical procedure is vividly described as "needles of pain digging under his teeth and scraping down his ear canal."


Some kissing and holding hands. 

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some teens drink beer at a homecoming party.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that despite two instances of gunfire in the opening pages of Blackout, the violence in this tense thriller is neither graphic nor dominant. A mysterious virus affecting only teens gives them superpowers that develop slowly. After some of the infected teens have turned to terrorism, wrecking a dam and downing a bridge, others volunteer to help stop them. There's no profanity or drug use, and the sexual content is limited to kissing and holding hands. 

What's the story?

Aubrey and Jack, teens from central Utah, are infected with a mysterious virus that affects only teens, giving each of them a unique superpower that develops slowly. Aubrey can become invisible, and Jack has ultra-keen senses. Some infected teens have turned to terrorism, and Aubrey and Jack volunteer to join the Green Berets to stop them. Their journey takes them from Seattle to San Diego, and readers know all along that some terrorists are closer to them than they realize.

Is it any good?


BLACKOUT has the makings of an effective thriller. A cell of three young terrorists spreads havoc across the American West, while the Army tries to identify the virus that gives superpowers to the still-developing brains of teens. It also tries to enlist some of them to fight the terrorists. Aubrey and Jack, connected by their unpopularity in high school, face harrowing tests of their loyalty to each other as they try to figure out who the terrorists really are. 

The aspect of young adults learning to use their newfound powers gives the story a coming-of-age quality that adds to its appeal. Too bad the page-turner fizzles into a sequel-ready ending.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why stories about superpowers are so popular. Which others have you read?

  • Superpowers come with weaknesses. One boy can lift incredible weight, but it hurts his bones. What would your superpower be, and what is its drawback?

  • The power-giving virus is called Erebus, which in mythology is the son of Chaos. Do you see the connection?

Book details

Author:Robison Wells
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Superheroes, Adventures, Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:October 1, 2013
Number of pages:432
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Hardback, Kindle

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Teen, 13 years old Written byUseursense March 14, 2014


I read this a while ago and loved it:) one warning though, there IS some swears, but not the worst words ever. Not as much swearing as Wells's other series, VARIANT. I can't wait to read the second one;)
Educator and Parent Written byehhslibrary February 5, 2014

More profanity than CSM Overview suggests

Blackout is a good read. I wanted to write this review to let potential readers know that the profanity content is actually several instances of: d***itt, h***, a**, and b****. I wouldn't call it excessive, but the CSM overview says there is no profanity, and that isn't accurate.