So I think one of the best ways to get to know a person is by hearing what they have to say on popular media. Buckle up...
BEWARE: SPOILERS INCLUDED IN THE REVIEW BELOW
Author: Perry Moore
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy (Superheroes!)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books, 2009
Synopsis from Barnes and Nobles:
Thom Creed is used to being on his own. Even as a highschool basketball star, he has to keep his distance because of his father. Hal Creed had once been one of the greatest and most beloved superheroes of The League—until the Wilson Towers incident. After that Thom's mother disappeared and his proud father became an outcast.
The last thing in the world Thom would ever want is to disappoint his father. So Thom keeps two secrets from him: First is that he's gay. The second is that he has the power to heal people. Initially, Thom had trouble controlling his powers. But with trail and error he improves, until he gets so good that he catches the attention of the League and is asked to join. Even though he knows it would kill his dad, Thom can't resist. When he joins the League, he meets a motely crew of other heroes, including tough-talking Scarlett, who has the power of fire from growing up near a nuclear power plant; Typhoid Larry, who makes everyone sick by touching them, but is actually a really sweet guy; and wise Ruth, who has the power to see the future. Together these unlikely heroes become friends and begin to uncover a plot to kill the superheroes.
Along the way, Thom falls in love, and discovers the difficult truth about his parents' past. This is a moving, funny, and wonderfully original novel that shows that things are not always what they seem, and love can be found in the unlikeliest of places.
What J thinks:
I'm a sucker for superhero stories. I've been a comic book geek since my dad bought me my first X-men issue when I was nine, which led to other Marvel titles and DC Vertigo and Image, then around 2001 or so I went over to the DC darkside. Anyone who knows me knows I love me some Batman. So when I read the synopsis for "Hero," it pretty much pushed all my buttons and as soon as I started to read it this morning, I blazed right through in one sitting.
I liked it. I'm glad I bought it. I would recommend it to other people. Let me tell you why:
1. The main character, Thom, is a realistic teenager. He swears when stressed, he's awkward (although that did hit my embarrassment squick a few times), and he's lonely, hiding who he is and planning for a far off day he can be himself.
2. His father -- My god, his dad. The scenes between Thom and Hal just resonated with me, that hesitance, that "I love you, dad, but I have no idea how to talk to you" that I think most of us go through. Hal's fierce protectiveness, Thom's fear of disappointing him -- I teared up a couple times and I normally don't do that with books.
3. Thom's love interest, Goran, is such a boy at times and it makes you love him all the more, because he's this guy who had to grow up early to look out for his little brother (so many yay buttons pushed!) Although, as the reader, you knew who Goran was all along from the continued "deep, piercing gaze" he had going on.
4. Moore juxtaposes Thom and Goran's lives, hell even the rest of the characters from Golden Boy to Ruth, and there's so many different perspectives -- They all have their tragedies and their hardships, but no one is coming across as more important or more tragic than the other. Each character felt developed and human. Some backstories were a little heavy on the Clue Stick, but with superhero stories you have to realize, they wouldn't be running around in tights and a cape if there weren't a few screws loose. Seriously, normal people just get therapy and a bottle of Xanax.
5. Society is not discounted. It plays a major part in the story and actions have real world consequences that reverberate for years down the road. From a huge tragedy in the past to one Thom has to stave off (reminiscent of 9/11 for those with triggers!), the impact of superheroes on society and how society in turn can build them up or tear them down like any modern day celebrity is explored to a satisfying degree.
6. Not everything is spelled out. Like a lot of good stories, you have to read between the lines for some of the associations. There's swearing and some adult situations (I'd say it's a PG-13), but the pace never slows down and Moore keeps the aciton up.
7. Some people may not see this as a plus, but I played Spot the Mainstream Superhero with the League. I did a double-take the first time Justice's backstory cribbed from Superman's, but considering that the book was published by Disney and Moore was involved in the Narnia series, I'm thinking they own some rights somewhere. Stan Lee said it was good in a quote on the cover -- That's good enough for me! But I did sorta wish Moore had put more effort into developing his own League superheroes instead of pulling from DC's line-up. Even someone who just watched the cartoons could spot the parallels.
8. Other than that and the age thing (which sometimes left me scratching my head -- either he was a minor or he wasn't, there is no in-between), I found the story to be riveting. It really is centered around Thom and his dad, but none of the other characters are short-shifted. It's about love and loyalty and not always understanding the people around you but being okay with it. It's about growing up.