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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 Edgeview 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.

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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.

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Tropes present in Hidden Talents include:

  • Abusive Parents: Martin's dad, although he tends to lean toward verbal abuse and not physical. Martin’s mother seems to mean well, but seems cowed by her husband. In True Talents, this comes to a head, with Martin running away from home.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Played straight with Cheater, a small Asian boy who knows random trivia off the top of his head. It’s even discussed when he first meets Martin.
  • 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. Out of all the boys, he’s the only one who can’t truly enjoy or embrace his powers.
  • Code Name: All of the boys except Martin have nicknames that conform to what they were sent to Edgeview for (and incidentally refer to their powers:
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    • Eddie Thalmeyer is called Trash because he trashes things with his telekinesis.
    • Willis Dobbs is called Flinch because he's constantly jumpy due to his precognition.
    • Dennis Woo is called Cheater because he's accidentally, with his Telepathy copying other kids' answers.
    • Phillip Grieg is called Torchie. He starts fires with his mind.
    • Dominic Calabrizi is called Lucky sarcastically because no one believes that he "finds" things that other people have recently lost and assume he stole them. His friends call him Lucky ironically, because he's really, really not.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Briggs plays this straight, being a patient guy who seems to only want to help his students. He’s the only teacher to not hold much of a grudge for Martin after dealing with him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Martin. He’s incredibly sarcastic to other students and teachers alike. interestingly, this seems to be an involuntary byproduct of his ability to recognize what people’s Berserk Buttons are.
  • Dustbin School: Edgeview Alternative is widely known to be the last stop for students that no other school will take. It's also the last stop for a lot of lackluster teachers. Martin reconstructs the trope, saving the school from closure by talking about how it has some serious disciplinary and staff issues, but also has the potential to do a lot of good for students who are out of options.
  • Elemental Hair: The redheaded Torchie.
  • 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
  • Expelled from Every Other School: Edgeview Alternative is the Dustbin School for students (and teachers) that no other school will take. The protagonist Martin is transferred there at the beginning of the book after one too many verbal altercations with teachers, but comes to bond with other students who got booted out of the conventional school system due to their unrealized Psychic Powers.
  • 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.
  • Fiery Redhead: Inverted with Torchie. He’s a redhead, but is also The Heart for his group of friends.
  • Five-Man Band: The main characters Zigzag this, so there are no exact matches:
    • Martin acts as The Leader taking charge of the group and acting as their coach in honing their powers. He also can be considered a Sixth Ranger considering that he arrived at the school and joined later than everyone else.
    • Torchie primarily serves as The Heart for the group, being the emotional center, but his contrast to Martin as his first friend makes him The Lancer to an extent.
    • Cheater, despite being Asian and Nerdy, is decidedly not consistently The Smart Guy, with most of the groups smarter decisions being relegated to someone else. Instead, he acts as The Lancer to Martin in the first half of the book, opposing Martin when he claims they have Psychic Powers. He does have some moments as The Smart Guy, though most of his insight is accidental.
    • Flinch: Flinch acts as The Smart Guy, being willing to hear Martin out about their psychic powers. As the first person to deny their powers, he does somewhat act as The Lancer when Torchie and Cheater are not present.
    • Lucky: Despite being in the group before Martin, Lucky demonstrates stereotypical traits of a Sixth Ranger; he’s notably aloof, distances himself from the others, and is the odd one out in regards to how his powers work. On the other hand, he’s physically imposing and the most prone to physical violence, making him The Big Guy.
    • Trash: Trash is the actual Sixth Ranger in regards to his role in the story, but also acts as The Lancer in being directly contrasted to Martin in the story in terms of importance. He’s also The Big Guy in terms of how his powers work, since his causes the most physical damage.
  • Giftedly Bad: Torchie's love for the harmonica.
  • Implausible Deniability: Torchie's "I didn't do nothing" doesn’t fool anyone. He turns out to be right.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Martin, much?
  • Loners Are Freaks: Trash, at the beginning of the novel, was ostracized by everyone, for apparently violently throwing things.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Torchie describes how his uncle might have had psychic powers, since he would often pat Torchie on parts of his body that were recently injured (ex. If Torchie got a sunburn on his back, his uncle would par him on the back.) The book never makes certain whether it’s coincidence or his uncle is actually psychic.
    • Theoretically, it’s not made clear whether Lucky hearing objects calling out to him is him hallucinating voices while his actual power is merely finding lost objects.
  • Meaningful Name: Everybody except Martin. See Code Name above.
  • Mind over Matter: Trash, and it's awesome.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The school bully, Lester Bloodbath.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: After Flinch breaks his arm, Martin thinks he hears chickens clucking, then realizes that it's Flinch swearing.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Just about everyone. Martin is the main exception.
  • Playing with Fire: Torchie.
  • Power Incontinence: All the main characters. The result of which has, unknowingly, been the reason why they were sent to Edgeview. Everyone except Lucky develops better control by the end of Book 1.
  • Psychic Powers: All the boys except Martin have these. [[Martin turns out to have this in some form as well...
  • 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.
  • Side Kick: Lip, to Bloodbath.
  • Spider-Sense: Flinch, as he has the ability to “see” some short time into the future. 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
  • With Catlike Tread: Martin, pretending to be asleep, sees Torchie trying to sneak back to bed "with all the grace of a moose on a floor of marbles."


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