Ostensibly a spectacular road trip, this fascinating spiritual work about what ultimately makes us good and bad is a strikingly original work. I was drawn in by Isabel's grasping for meaning and value in a world that has grown so cynical and distrustful of such searches. When I was growing up, there were a number of popular novels that combined good storytelling with philosophical exploration -- where a fantastic journey led to enlightenment (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The World According to Garp, and Illusions amongst others) but that style of novel writing has largely fallen out of fashion. Alsaid, whose previous work (Before Takeoff) was about the Rapture taking place at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, is a bold enough writer to dust off this old form.
The result is a book that, while set in the current day, becomes timeless in its universal search for meaning. It could not occur at a better time. We know that the past few years have been particularly hard on the mental health of young people. In our age full of cynical politics, climate change, pandemic lockdowns, and short attention spans, Actually Super speaks to recapturing meaning and appreciating the small kindness that we can all do -- the ways we can all become superheroes. A book like this calls on the reader to set aside the harmful messages and look for goodness instead in the little things that make us so similar to each other all around the world. It's an inspiration and an unforgettable read.