I’m going to admit, my book reading of late has been dominated by the Dresden Files, but I was recently offered a buy-one-get-one free offer on Audbile and had to pick books from the list, so I snagged A Dog’s Purpose and Hero.
I listened to A Dog’s Purpose first, and have decided that I don’t ever want to listen to the sequel. This book was emotional torture on the highest level. It was like I was riding the saddest and happiest roller coaster ever, and when it ended, I made my own conclusion because I couldn’t keep going like that. So, no, the sequel doesn’t exist… nope… If you’re a dog person, this book is heart wrenching… pure maddeningly heart wrenching, and beautiful.
If you’re not a dog person, well, maybe the beauty of this book will bring your soul back to you.
That’s not really what I want to write about today anyway. I want to talk about Super Heroes, because that’s what the second book was all about.
Hero is a superhero novel. It’s an origin story for a new Superhero, a young man who’s father had been one of the original heroes. His father had once been considered Earth’s Greatest Hero… but then there was a catastrophe, and his father became Earth’s Greatest Shame. That’s part of the story, learning to step out from under someone’s shadow and take your place on your own. It’s a little harder for Thom, the young hero, because his father blames people like him, with super powers, for his own career falling apart.
That’s not the only part of the story, though. There is also a love story, in a way. It’s not to the forefront of the Novel, and though it isn’t much of a surprise when it finally pops up, it’s not pushed into at all. It can be confusing in places… just like being a teenager is. It’s an emotional story, too, one that has a lot of angst and emoments. Like all superhero stories, it can be a bit melodramatic in places. That’s just how those super-hero types are, you know.
There’s the story of learning to accept what makes you different and special, and learning that your problems might not seem so big next to the problems other people are facing. It’s about learning to be part of a team and a family.
Like all good fantasies, it’s about growing up and learning to be an adult.
Did I mention that Thom’s also gay? That’s probably not too terribly important, it doesn’t really affect his ability to beat the bad guy and save the day.
It does, though, effect how he’s treated by civilians and heroes alike, even his own father treats him differently after he finds out.
That’s okay. It doesn’t change what it means to be a hero. It only changes what crap you have to go through to get there.
A cynical review might make a comparison between Hero and It Gets Better, and maybe that’s true. I’m not going to make that connection, though. Perry Moore’s book is a great Young Adult book, and I think the purpose of the entire genre might be to fill in as a literary version of It Gets Better.
A more objective review might mention that the writing isn’t the greatest, and the actual superhero parts of the story seem kind of cliché. My answer to that is: If I ever wrote a character with half as much depth as Thom Creed or a story with half as much sincerity as Hero, I would consider myself proud of that work.
A Lesson for Super Hero Writers:
In the forward to this book, Stan Lee writes that he loved this book because Perry Moore looked at heroes in a different way than anyone else, and I agree with him completely.
Even the stereotyped heroes that make up background characters have a bit of depth to them here. Moore looks at the characters as people first, like a real writer. They aren’t stereotypes. They aren’t power sets. They aren’t props for the story. They are the story.
The entire Super Hero Genre could take a lesson from that…
Maybe then 4-Color Comics could evolve into the art form they deserve to be. You can be melodramatic and ultra exaggerated… as long as you’re still putting the characters first.
Off My Soap Box
All the preaching in the world aside. Hero is a good story. I got caught up in it, and it really resonated with some of the crazy things that went on inside my head when I was a kid. It is a great YA book for everyone. Personally, I could identify pretty heavily with the.. um.. frustrating lack of personal life… regardless of orientation. I could also imagine how hard it would be if one day I thought my dad might hate me for something I couldn’t really control. It’s just a good book. Go read it…