by Perry Moore
YA fiction. 428 pp.
I finished this book last weekend, and I've been torn and struggling to figure out what to say about it. At this point, let's start with the flap copy:
Thom Creed is used to being on his own. Even though he's a basketball star, his classmates keep their distance. They pick up on something different about Thom. Plus, he can't escape his father's history. Hal Creed had been one of the greatest and most beloved superheroes of his time, until a catastrophic event left him disfigured and a pariah—and led to the disappearance of Thom's mother.The idea of the book is good. I like how Moore's taken the world of superheroes and treated it as if it's real, allowing the older generation to age, to become more human in their foibles. The plotting is initially very slow. Very slow. But the final action is done quite well.
The last thing in the world Thom 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 disowned Hal. The most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself, much les admit to anyone else. To make matters worse, he knows someone's been following him. Someone who knows everything.
But joining 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 have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League.
I guess where I get torn is in the marketing. The book is billed as a YA. It just didn't feel YA to me, though. I'm sure I could point to a number of elements such as slow initial pacing and excessive length. Or Thom's fantasies about an older superhero. (Though, in his defense, he comments at one point that he always fantasizes about older men because it makes his homosexuality less real than if he were to actually think about someone attainable, i.e. his own age.) Even I found myself slightly uncomfortable with the masturbation scene, despite the humorous, been there done that elements that were included.
Anymore, I take issue with the notion that all coming of age stories are YA, that all books with a teenaged protagonist are YA. Because they're not. This doesn't diminish their quality. It's just that YA has a feel to it, and Hero doesn't capture that feel, much like I Am the Messenger didn't capture that feel. I still really liked these books, but they're just not YA. Then again, perhaps I should be grateful that they're marketed YA, because there's a chance I wouldn't have picked them up had they not been.