Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hero by Perry Moore

I think this is the first young adult novel I've seen that actually tells us on the back that the main character is gay. Good for Hyperion.

Thom Creed's father was one of the country's best-loved superheroes--despite having no superpowers--until something awful happened. Now Thom lives in the shadow of his father's disgrace, his mother took off when he was still little, and his father works at a factory and can barely make ends meet. Thom isn't allowed to talk about the League of superheroes his dad used to belong to, isn't allowed to talk about superheroes at all. But when Thom develops powers of his own and discovers some pictures of his mother hanging out with League members, he realizes he doesn't know much about his own family. And when the League finds out about Thom's superhealing abilities, they invite him to try out--and Thom wants to join the League as badly as his dad hates the League.

The book is slow-paced despite some good action scenes. I didn't exactly get bored while reading, but I did repeatedly think, "Geez, this book is so long, why is this book so long?" It's 428 pages, which seems excessive for a YA about superheroes. Then again, a lot happens. It just happens slowly with a lot of talking.

In some ways, Hero reminds me of Austin Grossman's brilliant Soon I Will Be Invincible, in that it shows some of the internal workings of a league of superheroes and in its awkward moments of character backstory infodumping. At least four times in the book, a character tells Thom his or her story at length and in decidedly literary (rather than conversational) language. I found it extremely jarring. I also found the writing rough at times, with transitions often so abrupt that I couldn't figure out what was going on. A couple of times I had to check to make sure I hadn't accidentally turned two pages instead of one.

The superhero plot is pretty good--not great, frankly, because there are too many holes. I didn't notice most of them while I was reading, but once I'd finished and was thinking about the book, I kept thinking, "Wait a minute, why did...? And what the hell did that scene have to do with...?"

Overall, though, the book is good--moving and interesting. Thom's romance with another character takes a long time to get underway, but it feels natural. I kept tearing up, too, because Thom's life really is shitty: he's terrified someone will out him to his dad, he's terrified his dad will find out he's joined the League, he's lost his place on the high school basketball team due to rumors of his being gay, his League teammates apparently all hate him, and he's trying to deal alone with superpowers he barely understands. The ending is satisfying, even if the book itself tends to be melancholy and occasionally depressing.

B&N link


Kelly Robinson said...

Glad to see a book about a gay teen that isn't just about being gay. The superhero element sounds like a welcome switch-up. I read the recent hooplah about an agent asking a writer to change a gay YA character to a straight one. Seems like some people think a gay character can only appear in a gay novel, whatever that is.

K.C. Shaw said...

It's the same with minorities as main characters. It seems that any book with, say, a black main character has to be about 'black issues.' Like maybe POC don't occasionally want to read a book just for fun.