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Hero

Review

Hero

Almost for as long as we've been able to imagine superheroes, they've often served as metaphors. An invisible superhero might serve as a metaphor for someone who feels ignored. The ability to freeze water might be reflective of that hero's cold personality. But more often than not, one of the strongest metaphors to emerge --- especially in the last 20 years or so --- surrounds the need of most heroes to keep their true identity secret. The secrecy is often done in the name of protecting family or privacy. We most often have an ordinary person who presents themselves to the real world while they live an alternate life as someone who is far from ordinary.

It doesn't require much imagination to see the correlation between this and the lives led by many closeted homosexuals. In his debut young adult novel, Perry Moore takes this natural leap to create an intelligent and thoughtful story about a closeted gay teen who struggles with more than one secret identity.

HERO is the story of Thom Creed, a talented high school basketball player living with his father (a "powerless" hero --- ala Batman --- who retired in disgrace following a disaster several years ago) after his mother's disapperance. Plagued by seizures, Thom begins to see a connection between his ailment and emerging superpowers that allow him to heal anything living. Knowing how his father hates superheroes (all of whom turned their back on him following the disaster), he vows to keep his abilities secret. Even more importantly, however, Thom knows he has to keep another change in his life from his father: Thom figures out that he's gay.

But Thom's effort to keep a lid on all the secrets in his life is endangered when a league of superheroes witnesses him using his abilities and invites him to join their team. Suddenly, Thom's life is more hectic than ever, and it's only a matter of time --- between fighting the forces of evil and trying to keep everything from his father --- that things begin to unravel.

While the book seemed to start slowly, Moore's skillful use of language and memorable characters kept me engaged throughout. It's quite easy to love Ruth, an elderly hero with precognitive abilities who casually watches her predictions for the future unfold. And while Thom very easily could have devolved into a stereotypical, angst-ridden, horny teen, he instead is presented with a great deal of compassion for his situation. Most memorable for me is when Thom, haunted by the disappearance of his mother, must come to terms with some uncomfortable truths about the nature of her relationship with his father.

Although some will find it easy to dismiss or label this as another "gay teen" book, doing so would be a colossal mistake. Moore explores issues of not only gay identity but the nature of friendship, the dangers of keeping secrets and the agony associated with first love (and first crushes).

Moore, a producer of the recent Chronicles of Narnia movies, excels at juggling a multi-faceted story, well-drawn characters and a quirky sense of humor that blends seamlessly with the narrative. Instead of wallowing in the fantastic, HERO feels very real and plausible in its ability to balance the fantastic elements with genuine emotion. I'm looking forward to reading more from this talented new voice.

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Reviewed by Brian Farrey on October 18, 2011

Hero
by Perry Moore

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 1423101952
  • ISBN-13: 9781423101956