Written by: Perry Moore
Hardcover: 432 pages
August 2007, $7.99
Genre: Young Adult/Superhero
The last thing in the world Thom Creed wants is to add to his father's pain, so he keeps secrets. Like that he has special powers. And that he's been asked to join the League - the very organization of superheroes that spurned his dad. But the most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself: he's gay.
But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world to Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, who can control fire but not her anger; Typhoid Larry, who can make anyone sick with his touch; and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide; but they will have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League. To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he'll have to come to terms with his father's past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be.
Even after I read my first comic book I was always wondering what would be my superpower if I could have one. I always drawn to Storm and her ability to control the weather or in recent years I think being a memory mimic would be cool. You could fly, you can have the ability of the elements like fire or water. You could be invisible. But what would you do with those super powers. If you had a choice between flying or invisibility which would you choose and why? Would you choose to be invisible so you could spy on neighbors or get into places you shouldn’t. Would you choose flying so you didn’t have to sit in mid-town traffic? Would we choose one or the other because we knew we could use it for good or for selfish reasons? Would you be one of the good guys or one of the villains? I think what is great about superheroes is the lack of normality, that there is something unique and special about you. That you are different and that people can look up to you. Who wouldn’t want to be a Wonder Woman or a Batman? Would you have a secret identity? Would you go solo or have a League?
Finn chose Hero by Perry Moore this month for book club and I couldn’t help but think about all that encompasses being a superhero when I began reading it. Thom is a basketball star and volunteer with kids, but he has some secrets. One: his dad is disgraced superhero Major Might who is responsible for one of the worst tragedies, Two: He may have some superpowers of his own, and Three: he’s gay. It all begins during a basketball game when a rival player gets injured. Drawn, he tries to help and discovers that he can heal injuries. At the same time a player winks at him and stirs up emotions. When Thom unwittingly begins both a victim of a crime and a hero, he gets asked to be part of the League, the same League his father once was part of. Hero thus unfolds as both a coming of age story for a gay teen entwined with a comic book superhero story.
Things I loved: I loved how multi-dimensional this book was. It was more than a superhero story, or a love story, a coming out story or a story about a son and his father. Now it is not without its faults, but I enjoyed it overall. I like Thom. He’s a good kid who is not struggling with being gay, it is just something he knows and feels, but struggling with how the rest of the world is going to perceive him because of this one thing. Now for me and those who have read it as well, what race did you see him as. There are a few clues, but I think Thom is black, but other than a few comments there is never a description. Because it doesn’t really matter. But being gay seems to matter. Even when he is among his rag tag group of probationary superheroes all with some pretty hefty secrets of their own, Thom still feels like an outsider, like it is not okay to be and let everyone know who he really is. But for the most part Thom is normal. He looks at porn, spends hours outside the local gay bar before having enough courage to go inside, he has a first kiss, he makes mistakes. Thoms voice in the first person narration is strong and well developed.
I love all of the intended homages to the superheroes of my youth. And they have to be homages. For Warrior Woman from her island far away and her lariat is so obvious that it cannot be anything but intended tribute. Just as I love to figure out the voices of actors when they do animated films, I loved trying to figure out all of the different superheroes that Moore was referencing. It made my girly geek happy. Though Moore was obviously a DC Comics fan.
I loved his superpower. The ability to heal others. It may start off small, healing an injury, a grievous wound, but then realizing that healing others pain makes you stronger and that you can harness that ability is awesome. But I think that realization that pain doesn’t always mean a bloody wound means a lot.
I liked a lot of the secondary characters. Ruth especially. While I don’t want to give things away, she made me laugh and cry. Being able to foretell the future is a bitch.
I liked the relationship between Thom and his father. Sometimes they both make some bad choices. They make mistakes, they try to atone for them. And their relationship is a complex one. It doesn’t help that Thom’s mother disappeared from their life leaving them both to mourn and try and figure out what the hell they were doing. Thom has his own misconceptions about his dad, just as Thom’s father has some about him. They are both trying to live the only way they know how. Those bits of the story were great.
Things I didn't love so much: Maybe it is naïve of me, but I think that being gay would not result in such a ridiculous and stereotypical level of homophobia. Graffiti, Being kicked off of the Basketball team when you are a star player, and burning things into lawns is a bit overdoing it don’t you think? Now I know we have a long way to go when it comes to gay rights and not making it an issue, but I think we are getting there as slow as it is which can be intensely frustrating. One of my best friends is gay and I have another who is transgendered. We live in Montana where most people still think we have bears as pets and don’t understand what technology is but for the most part we have not had any trouble. That has to say something right? And as much as I feel like they didn’t make an issue about his race perhaps, they did make it about his being homosexual. It’s as if in some ways it is his only character trait. But then again this is from Thom’s perspective. Perhaps he feels it is only defining quality and people will judge him by that alone just as he judges himself. Maybe that is what this story is really all about learning to accept who you are on all levels not just one, when you fight to be accepted for all that you are and for the things that are important to you and that there is more out there than just your tiny little slice of life.
I will say that the prose is nothing special and action scenes are definitely not his forte. The action writing was sloppy, confusing and filled with far too many mistakes and plot holes simply because he skimps on writing these scenes with as little detail as possible.
Buy or Borrow: Buy. Or at least borrow.
Part of: Stand Alone
Also Recommended: I would recommend Ash by Malinda Lo, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Devils Cape by Rob Rogers, Superpowers: A Novel by David Schwartz and Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines.
3.50 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks