Review: ExtraOrdinary by V.E. Schwab

Woohoo! We’re finally into my 2022 reviews! How great does this feel?

Since my reading tapers off at the end of each year, choosing my first read of the new year is a big deal. It kind of sets the tone for how things go, not only for January, but also the first half of the year. I try to be really intentional about choosing something that either excites me a lot or feels familiar. And as I thought about it, a simple solution came to mind - read a V.E. Schwab book.

Loving her books and having a massive backlist means I had a lot to choose from. It felt right that I would pick one of her books because I always have a great time and it would start the year off on a good note. The closer I got to the end of 2021 and saw how my reading was going, the more it solidified in my mind that reading a Schwab book would be the best decision.

I was lucky to snag this copy of ExtraOrdinary from Owlcrate. As much as I can afford, I try to get the special editions I know of cause they look pretty on my shelf and make me feel like a real collector of her work. Also, I really wanted to read something set in the Villains world while waiting for the unannounced release of the final book in the trilogy. Since then, I’ve been lucky to add the Barnes & Noble edition of ExtraOrdinary to my shelves as well.

After taking a few days off from reading at the beginning of the year, I laid in bed, tried to convince my cat to snuggle, and started reading.

Title: ExtraOrdinary
Author: V.E. Schwab; illustrated by Enid Balám
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 128
Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date: October 12, 2021

Book 1 of 2022
Reading Time: 28 minutes
Date Finished: January 6, 2022

Content Warnings: Family death, visions of death, talks of suicide, torture, PTSD, kidnapping, intent to murder, illegal imprisonment, near death experience

What Worked For Me: World, new powers, art style
What Didn’t Work For Me: Character design, story pacing, character development


I was really interested in following the story of someone other than the main characters we already know and love. The mention of Charlotte rings a very, very faint bell somewhere far in the back of my head. I’m not really sure why that is. It’s possible that her name pops up in Vengeful, but I don’t totally remember cause I’ve only read that book once while I’ve read Vicious three times.

As a main character, Charlotte was quite interesting. Her ability is unlike anything that we’ve seen from other characters mentioned in the books. I always look forward to seeing how Schwab describes their abilities because that’s part of the fun. I love how she explains and explores powers, it reminds me of when I watched X-Men for the first time and watched as each character learned how to adapt to their new abilities.

Reading about the learning curve and how each character manages to overcome the problems that come with randomly developing abilities. Without anyone else being able to related unless they’re also ExtraOrdinary, it takes a toll on each new person in a different way.

In Charlotte’s case, what her ability actually is makes it even harder for her to readjust to her near-death experience. I thought it was super interesting to see who she became because of it and where her decisions led her.

I think the story as a whole was a good connecting point between the two books we have so far in this trilogy. It’s a fun little glimpse at what happens between the end of Vicious and the beginning of Vengeful. Obviously, it’s very short since it’s in graphic novel format, but it fills out some of the in-between moments a bit more.

I also enjoyed seeing what the characters looked like to the artist. I’m not very in-tune with the world of graphic novel illustrators, but I loved the art style and how it helped tell the story. The bright colors are a nice contrast between the largely grim story.

However, I do have some problems with the story. I’m already talking about the art, so let’s continue with that. As beautiful as the art was and as much as I love the character designs, I did not love how Victor and Eli were depicted. My memory has always told me that both are quite attractive, albeit in different ways. Eli is classically handsome while Victor makes you look twice before you realize that he’s also good-looking.

how I picture Victor

The depiction in ExtraOrdinary only showed Eli to be attractive, while Victor looks…off? It’s entirely not how I pictured him. This version made him look old and almost robot like, but it kept Eli rather pleasant-looking. I mean, I know Victor ages, but I’ve always thought that he would keep his looks. Maybe it’s about interpretation. I’ve seen a good amount of fan art and I think my favorite remains the one I used when talking about fictional boyfriends.

Comparing how Victor looks in this graphic novel to the descriptions of him in the book, it was a little disappointing when I saw him here. It’s not the biggest deal in the world that he looks different. My enjoyment was thrown off when it took me awhile to place Victor though.

Moving on to the plot, I think the graphic novel could have been a bit longer. There were a few things that felt rushed, like one of Charlotte’s decisions. I have no idea how she came to it that quickly and acted on it without much thought of what that would actually be like. While it felt reflective of teenage decision-making, I didn’t really like it as a device to move the story forward.

It was a little hard to figure out the timeline of the story. At one point, I thought a couple of weeks had passed but it had been months. That confused me quite a bit. And then there was the new version of the college timeline that we know from Vicious. I was so confused by it that I had to make a mental note to pay attention during my re-read of Vicious to see what was going on.

(Spoiler alert, Vicious was my next read and will be my next review. And no, the timelines didn’t line up. Certain details were wrong and I’m curious as to why the changes were made. Not going to assume that V.E. Schwab forgot things because I doubt she did.)

There was also a scene that felt questionable to me? Not that I’ve broken into many places (not real B&E, but I’ve snuck into places I wasn’t supposed to go to before), but it’s not as simple as the graphic novel made it out to be. ExtraOrdinary made it feel like it was just another casual thing that anyone could do. I get that they’re literally ExtraOrdinary, but that still requires more effort than what these characters gave.

In the end, it was enjoyable and a really quick read, but it’s not my favorite of Schwab’s work. ExtraOrdinary, to my knowledge, is the first volume of graphic novels set in this world? I think? There might be more in the future, but so far, I haven’t found anything that fully confirms that. I would be interested in seeing more stories if V.E. Schwab wrote more.

This isn’t something you can read without having read Vicious first because there are spoilers, but it’s not hard read that before getting to this. It’s also not necessary to read this if you’re currently working through the two books in the Villains trilogy. This is mostly extra content for the people who are super invested in the world.

I’d call it a success that I started the year with this book. Being able to finish a book in less than half an hour made me feel so accomplished. Now I know that if I really want to start the year on a good note, it’s best to pick a V.E. Schwab book or go back to an old favorite.

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  • Maggie says:

    I felt similarly about the art in this book. I liked it for the most part, but the designs for Eli and Victor (Victor especially) felt a little jarring. I think the art style is fitting overall though, and I enjoyed the rest of the book, so in the grand scheme of things it's not really a big deal.

    • Charmaine Lim says:

      I think it was solely Victor and Eli that threw me off. If not for that, I loved how the art worked with the rest of the story. It had the necessary edge going on, but Victor and Eli have a sense of refinement to them that I think better suits a different art style.