by Starr Z. Davies
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,
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 doe-eyed, 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.
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
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
understands 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 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 to 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
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
The Origins of the Ordinary Trilogy Titles
Finding the right title for a book is a 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
-Ugene played by Justice Smith. After watching him in
Detective Pikachu, there was really no one else for the role. He’s perfect in
-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
-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 go 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
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.
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.