I’m not gonna lie, I was disappointed when I saw that Spirit would center around Hunter. He’s already been highlighted more than any other character in this series, and he’s frankly just not very much fun. He’s actually kind of a bummer: such a wounded bird, and so infinitely capable of screwing everything up while trying to do the right thing. The first third of Spirit is just a bunch of depressing, unfair shit falling on his shoulders and him whining about it (which he has every right to do because his life is the absolute worst, but Jesus). And then the novel hits its stride, and you realize that there is no way Kemmerer could have told this story with any other character. Because it goes to some pretty dark places, and I think it all impacted me harder than it might have had I not started out feeling ambivalent about the guy at the center of everything.Spirit is Hunter’s third separate outing as a love interest in this series, and it finally feels like he’s evenly matched. He and Kate, the mysterious new girl, are absolutely adorable together. Their flirtatious text messages are amazing. And please, please, please read Nick’s novella, Breathless, before delving into Spirit. Not having read it won’t ruin anything for you, but there is some really great humor built in if you know what’s going on with Nick when Kate flirts with him. It’s a lot of fun.The Elemental series is, on the surface, just a bunch of stories about cute, realistically-written teenage boys with super powers falling in love. And, frankly, I would devour each novel as it came out if that were all there was to it. But there’s also some really lovely stuff here about this new generation having the capacity to rise up and shake off the prejudices of those before it. What Kemmerer does better than so many other writers is… well, do you remember in X-Men: The Last Stand, when Ice Man and Pyro go home to see their parents, and their mother asks, “Have you ever tried not being a mutant?” And then you didn’t want to watch the movie anymore because with that one line, the filmmakers had stretched the basic metaphor at the core of the property to a point where it no longer literally applied to the circumstances of the film? Me, too. It felt like the writers and director were so concerned with showing how clever they were that they didn’t mind ignoring the poignancy a less on-the-nose version of the classic coming out scene could’ve had. It’s important within narrative works to tell the story as it wants to be told, even if that means straying from the strict confines of the real-life situations you’re emulating and alluding to.Kemmerer, by contrast, seems to have no ego tied up in her stories. Everything feels like it comes from a place of love. She writes about family dynamics and the complications between teenagers and their parents in such a beautiful, honest way. The sweet, unconditional love of these unconventional families is so refreshing, and the sacrifices they make for each other are just heartbreaking. By the end of the novel, it is clear that the Guides are getting serious and closing in on the Merricks, and it's equally clear that the family can’t run away. So they’re stuck, sitting ducks, waiting for a trap to spring that will finally overwhelm their considerable talents.