QSFer Michael Solis has a new queer YA superhero book out: Deficient.
The near future is progressively free from discrimination based on race, class, and sexual orientation. But in a world populated by the gifted, fifteen-year-old Alejandro Aragon (Alé) is part of the only remaining minority—he’s a Deficient. Powerless. The one that accelerated genetics left behind.
Alé knows that he’ll need a miracle to graduate and pursue his dream of a legal career in the capital. His only ally is his best friend Yalamba, an outspoken and exceptionally gifted artist renowned for her unique ability to draw things into existence. But when she’s kidnapped in a hate crime against her ability, it appears that Alé has every motive and no believable alibi.
To prove his innocence and track down the real culprit, Alé teams up with the other outcasts in school, who each have their own reasons for getting involved. But the deeper they dig, the more they fear Yalamba’s kidnapping is linked to a string of unsolved murders against the exceptionally gifted.
With time running out, Alé must discover who he really is if he and his new friends plan to track down the culprit, clear his name, and rescue Yalamba—all before she herself is drawn out of existence.
Get It At Amazon | Publisher | B&N | Kobo | Waterstones
Life never goes the way you want it to when you’re a Deficient. It’s a lesson I learned long ago—seven years ago, to be exact.
Now, at fifteen, it’s one I’m reminded of every morning on the way to the academy.
My forehead cools as I rest it against the smooth glass of the shuttle bus window. I don’t bother paying attention to the hovering vehicles outside or the bright blue lights of the highway. Instead, I watch raindrops race to the bottom of the foggy window.
Some drops are bigger than others. They gobble up the smaller ones as they slide down, but the big ones pay the price for their size. After absorbing so many of the tiny droplets, they grow too large to sustain themselves. They succumb to gravity, falling from the window to their deaths on the illuminated highway below.
My thoughts snap back to my surroundings, and my eyes dart to the biggest droplet of all—a gooey glob of saliva that’s splashed near the upper corner on the inside of my window.
I grit my teeth. Idiots.
The fourth-year Atlases sitting across the aisle cackle away.
“You missed, moron!” one says.
“I won’t next time,” the second replies.
My skin prickles with goose bumps—a familiar sign of fight or flight. But fleeing isn’t possible, and fighting won’t help. The evolutionary theorists should have come up with a third option for a Deficient who’s backed into a corner. With their enhanced strength, Atlases can do whatever they want with someone like me.
“Aren’t you gonna stand up for yourself, defective loser?” the third one asks.
I fail to answer the question—a trick that usually buys me some time, though it tends to generate immediate resentment.
“Say something, defect!”
“He’s so stupid he can’t even talk,” says the first. Ironic, since his brain is dimmer than a black hole.
Knowing I can only remain silent for so long, I let out a deep sigh before turning away from the window to stare at them.
“Something,” I mutter.
Their eyebrows narrow, and their words transform into snarls. They remind me of a pack of rabid dogs.
“This Deficient fecker thinks he’s smart.”
The second Atlas inhales and releases another wad of phlegm that spurts out so fast I can’t dodge it. It hits me hard on the cheek, forcing me to turn toward the window once again.
Splat! Splat! Splat! Splat!
I raise my arm to block the onslaught of spit. It ends after a few seconds. The Atlases laugh and give each other high fives.
I wipe at the warm, sticky moisture on my face with the sleeve of my academy jacket. The contrast between the gooey yellow mucous and black fabric makes my stomach churn.
I want to hurl every curse I know at the Atlases, but I bite my tongue. Provoking them was a stupid mistake. Acting on my emotions never ends well.
Two years until I’m out of Achewon. It feels like forever, but it will come eventually. Counting down the hours left in the day usually helps—a reminder that time is, in fact, passing—though it’s a little early in the morning to start doing that.
The shuttle bus comes to a stop. The Atlases get up and laugh their way down the aisle. Quieter kids look away as they rush past my seat. None are willing to stand up in my defense, let alone look me in the eye. They scamper to the exit, panicking as if the shuttle bus had suddenly gone ablaze.
They’re hyenas and cowards, all of them.
Once all the students have passed, I slide my backpack over my shoulder and make for the door. The shuttle bus driver looks out the window instead of rewarding me with a goodbye or wishing me a great day like he does the other students. I don’t mind. I’ve had seven years to get used to not being acknowledged.
The shuttle bus lifts into the air and starts to accelerate before I can dismount. Thanks, Mr. Shuttle Bus Driver. I jump. My legs wobble when I touch the ground, but my landings seem to be getting better.
I take in the dampness of the November air before I see it—the place I hate more than any other on this planet.
Achewon Egalitarian Academy.
I shudder. Seven hours down. Only seventeen more to go.
Michael Solis is from New Jersey and currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya. He has spent most of the past fifteen years working in development and humanitarianism in Sierra Leone and Latin America. A Princeton graduate, he has master’s degrees in human rights law and gender studies. While traveling, he fell in love with telling thought-provoking stories based on his personal experiences. Deficient is his debut novel.