Power Surge by Sara Codair (Evanstar Chronicles, #1)
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
Power Surge blends mundane kinds of trauma, pain, and grief with the heady rush of learning that magic is real and there's more going on than most people know. Erin is sad and brave and wonderful; fighting against darkness and despair.
It fits within the genre of "person who thinks they're ordinary finds out they have powers and also responsibilities", but it feels like it takes seriously the idea that these are otherwise ordinary people who have to deal with some very dark and stressful things, both because they have powers and from things that have nothing to do with their abilities. It has strong themes of unaddressed grief and trauma, and part of the story is how some of those things are examined and addressed.
The narrator is very blunt and matter-of-fact which helps to ground the story when so many strange things are happening. Depending on whether you read the prequel story, Life Minus Me, the early parts of the book can either be a gradual reveal of the truth or feel a bit like a detective story where the reader is waiting for the MC to figure out what we already know to be happening. I read Life Minus Me before this book, and I think I recommend doing it the other way around. I think they can be enjoyed in either order, but it depends on whether you want a quick sketch of the world and then to watch someone else slowly discover it (read Life Minus Me, then Power Surge) or you want to discover a brand new world with the main character, then explore an older story from it with an\ relatively experienced character as a guide (read Power Surge, then Life Minus Me).
The depictions of trauma are handled well in terms of spacing, level of detail, and relative attention paid to each one. Look to the CWs at the end of this review (they can also be found in the front of the book), but the way each event is spaced out and they are balanced in relation to each other meant that, at least for me, I had enough detail to understand Erin's state of mind without being subjected to pages of ideation all at once. This is a book which takes the time to show the lingering effects of various kinds of trauma and that means it sometimes depicts characters not handling trauma well.
CW for violence, discussion of off-page abuse, death of a parent, mentions of off-page sexual assault, brief on-page depictions of attempted sexual assault, self-harm, suicidal ideation, bullying.