Back in around 2015-2016, I read a new book at that time about a kid who gets tested for having a superpower, and essentially he had to guess what a hidden object/drawing was and it was a penguin with a scarf (?), essentially there are a bunch of kids who have powers and as they grow older they lose their powers but the main character found a way to not have his powers go away but I can't remember how I just remember that it involved mirrors.

This is all that I remember about the book, I'd appreciate it if anyone had any idea about what the book could be!

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    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 21:11
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    @FuzzyBoots That's the one the title made me think of, but it doesn't match the rest of the question. Certainly the young kids don't need to be tested, they all have powers.
    – DavidW
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 21:27
  • @DavidW: Ditto, Powerless doesn't involve testing, the power loss is tied to age not puberty, and the solution doesn't involve mirrors.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 22:36

2 Answers 2


I’ve been looking for this exact book for such a long time (I very distinctly remember the penguin test you mentioned being a part of it). I’m 90% sure that “The Ability” by M.M. Vaughan is the book. I’m going to try to find it at my local library to be sure but I hope this was the book you were looking for!!

A r/whatsthebook question where this was identified as the correct answer gave the description:

world where some kids are “gifted”, but the ones who are only retain their powers until they are 13 (i think) years old. the main character learns when he is 12ish that he has powers, and the way they test them is by hiding some image and asking him what image he thinks it is — i remember the image having been a penguin image. kid was very surprised that he got it right, and they brought him to a place to meet other kids.

fast forward to the end of the first book, he’s about to turn 13 and lose his powers. he stares at himself in the mirror and reads his own mind as the minutes tick down, observing his mind space (which he views as a room with drawers) filling up with cement. he scoops out the cement as time goes on — there is a sequel, i think he retains his powers.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! Can you describe the book and explain how it matches the question?
    – DavidW
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 23:16

I'm pretty sure it is A Coming of Age.

Iirc the kids didn't need testing for their powers, but they were made to live in "Hives" where the oldest children (knowing they wd soon lose their powers and join the adults) enforced discipline. This arrangement had been set up after a period of anarchy in which the superkids ran riot until it was realised that they wd lose their powers at puberty. The Hive children were given points according to how well they behaved, and were only entiled to education if they had a certain tally of points. Education did not starrt until hey left the Hive.

  • I have an early PB copy of A Coming of Age by Zahn, it dates from 1984. All children have powers, largely telekinesis, but the child who has been treated in an attempt to preserve his powers past puberty is tested to see how quickly his developing powers are coming in, the testing is described in some detail . Adults who unlawfully use kids for their powers are called "Fagins" after the character from Oliver Twist. It is illegal to teach a child who still has powers to read. One Fagin promotes himself to kids as a religious leader. A police official is a major character. Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 15:33

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