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This place may be hell, but at least it's our hell.—Martin, Hidden Talents
Hidden Talents and its Darker and Edgier sequel, True Talents, are novels written by David Lubar.
The first book follows the adventures of Martin, a smart-aleck sent to Edgeville Alternative School, a correctional facility. Here he meets the aptly nicknamed Torchie, a supposed pyromaniac; Cheater, an Asian and Nerdy boy sent to the school on accounts of cheating on tests; Flinch, a future comedian with hair-trigger reflexes that make him a disruptive influence in school; the introverted Lucky who was sent to Edgeview for kleptomania; and Trash, a loner artist and past vandal. They become close friends as they evade ruthless bully Bloodbath and attempt to stay out of trouble, with varying results on both fronts.
However, as Martin gets to know better this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, he starts to notice that something's unusual about his friends: all five appear to have psychic abilities. Although they initially disbelieve him, even to the point of ostracizing him when he persists in his theory that they are not delinquents as the rest of the world presumes, Martin manages to make them accept their gifts.
After one escape from the school for an evening of gaming at the nearby arcade ends up with a fight against the mayor's son and his cronies, a broken arm for Flinch when Bloodbath cuts the escape ladder going up to Lucky's room, and a moved examination of Edgeview that could close the school thanks to the mayor's intervention, Martin and his friends mobilize to keep Bloodbath from sabotaging the examination, using their own hidden talents to keep the school alive - and discover a few true talents along the way.
Tropes present in Hidden Talents include:
- Abusive Parents: Martin's dad, although he tends to lean toward verbal abuse and not physical.
- Asian and Nerdy: Cheater. Lampshaded repeatedly in the second book.
- Berserk Button: Please don't laugh at Bloodbath, and don't call him by his first name, Lester.
- Martin can find out what a person is most ashamed of/takes as the greatest insult. Before he realized this, he was using it unwittingly to make just about all of his teachers and other adults hate him.
- Blessed with Suck: Lucky, because of how his powers work. He hears voices from lost items, and the longer he leaves them, the louder they call out to him.
- Darker and Edgier: The second book. A lot of the humor in the first book is gone, and rather than dealing with a school bully, these teenagers are up against people who want to kidnap and experiment on them. Thinking about Trash's or Lucky's experiences in detail will lead to Nightmare Fuel.
- Deadpan Snarker: Martin.
- The Empath: Martin, of sorts; he can instantly detect the Berserk Buttons of any person he meets...as well as the best way to stroke their egos
- Fartillery: A kid called "Hindenburg" blew open a closet door. Let it be known that said kid has no special abilities as far as we know and did this with sheer...well, there's no other way to put it, is there...fart power.
- Well, he was trapped in there with Torchie, so there very well could be a reason for that explosion... but still, it takes a lot of, uh, "natural gas" to ignite like that.
- Implausible Deniability: Torchie's "I didn't do nothing"
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Martin, much?
- Loners Are Freaks: Trash, at the beginning of the novel, was ostracized by everyone.
- Meaningful Nickname: Everybody except Martin.
- Mind Over Matter: Trash, and it's awesome
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The school bully, Lester Bloodbath
- Nightmare Fuel: In Book 2, Lucky goes insane from the voices of lost toy soldiers buried in his school's foundation, and actually starts tearing down the school trying to get to them. He then gets committed. Meanwhile, Trash has been kidnapped and drugged for the purpose of experimentation...
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Just about everyone. Martin is the main exception.
- Playing with Fire: Torchie
- Power Incontinence: All the main characters. Everyone except Lucky develops better control by the end of Book 1.
- Psychic Powers
- Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Cheater.
- Sadist Teacher: Martin has a lot of these, although some are just plain weird. The principal also qualifies despite not being an actual teacher.
- Sidekick: Lip, to Bloodbath.
- Spider Sense: Flinch, he uses it for dodgeball and, in True Talents, for (surprisingly enough) a job as a comedian.
- The Team Normal: Martin, who sometimes feels left out because of this. He makes up for it by helping the others with their powers and eventually discovering his own, which he'd been unknowingly using throughout the whole story.
- Telepathy: Cheater