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Thursday, February 18, 2010

review: Hero by Perry Moore


Hero
by Perry Moore

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.

young adult fiction ; glbt ; superheroes { genre
PG for mild violence { rating
September 1, 2007 { first released
Hyperion trade paperback (400 pages) { review edition
borrowed { acquisition
Amazon.com ; Amazon.ca ; IndieBound ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
I've always loved reading about superheroes, or watching movies/TV shows about them. There aren't many superhero novels (comics are aplenty), so I thought I'd give this a try. It also fits in my GLBT Challenge =D

First Lines
I never thought I'd have a story worth telling, at least not one about me. I always knew I was different, but until I discovered I had my own story, I never thought I was anything special. My destiny began to unfurl during my very last game at school. What started with an accident on the court ended with the single most devastating look I ever got from my father. And it made me want to die.

Overall Rating
☂☂.5

The cliched plot points of convenience, tedious exposition of character pasts, as well as incredibly 2D side characters are only marginally redeemed by the sympathetic if rather dense protagonist Thom and his cute, blooming romance with his mysterious "rival" Goran. The action and intensity does pick up during the last third of the book, with murders and betrayals that depart almost entirely from the self-centered teen angst in the beginning. Nonsensical character decisions, appearances, and fatalities however, did nothing but frustrate me, despite the fact that the final "twist" was a relatively pleasant surprise.

review posted to Amazon.ca, Book Depository, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

Plot/Themes
☂☂☂

The author tried juggling a lot of different ideas, but most were quickly discarded after a single-paragraph cameo, leaving the entire book seemingly half-assed and incomplete. It is like one of those "feature chapters/episodes" in cartoon series where side characters get their 20 page/minute feature, and then fade into the background by the next installment. Otherwise, the issue is just regurgitated repeatedly in different paraphrases. As with many YA novels I've read (back when I was a YA lol), difficult plot points that raise issues of morality either end in an all-too-easy/forgiving scenario (ex. someone saying "if the dead guy were alive, he forgives you, really") or death-by-convenience (ex. they "sacrifice" themselves to help fight the final boss). One such issue is the one of interracial relationships. There are at least two couples in this book that are made up of a white person and a POC. Despite that they do discuss issues of interracial relationships being discriminated against, and the horrors of war outside the First World bubble, the issue is merely used to provide a tragic flair for the character's past and is never returned to again. I really wish the author had taken more time to flesh out these issues.
The issue of "coincidence" also bothered me quite a bit since Thom just happens to be there when major plot points occur (ex. the attack on his bus; the hitchhiking with that guy; the rings on Ruth's finger). Sure they explain a lot of it away as a part of Ruth's "visions" into the future, but most of it felt rather forced and serving of no function save advancing the plot.
One thing that did appeal to me was the rather drastic change of tone from the moment the "first" murder happens. I was personally quite glad of this change since the previous sections were quite anti-climatic. Now that I look back, I can appreciate how things started out slowly in the first half, with one seemingly natural death and sentimental slips of the tongue. Then suddenly we get hit with grotesque descriptions of the victims' corpses, deaths left and right, and everyone becoming dangerously suspicious. Perhaps the author was trying to play with our hindsight and make the "boring" parts seem chillingly so, but I would have preferred if more hints at this change were dropped to pique my attention.

Characters
☂☂☂

Thom is a sensitive but physically strong character. I am rather glad that he is not pigeon-holed as a gay character defined by his gay romance. He very much has a life outside pining after every guy he sees, working multiple jobs and volunteering on the side to support his disgraced Dad. The only issue I really have with him is that he's alternatively either too nice (aka pushover mode) or too self-centered (aka teenager mode). I realize that his powers is not conductive to much badassery, but a lot of the time he just follows along with what others tell him to do and doesn't think anything through himself (especially when he goes to get the ring). Other times he's too quick to judge and make out everyone who isn't nice to him as an outright villain. He does grow become more assertive towards the end, and realizes that everyone has their own problems to deal with.
Goran I believe should have gotten a larger part in the story. He is very similar to Thom in that he is also a community volunteer and basketball player, with the burden of having to support his little brother. His romance with Thom starts out as a friendly and quiet rivalry, and grows as they each struggle with their own feelings and secrets. I do like that their relationship didn't feel rushed, but I would have liked to see more of their interaction.
Many of the heroes in the League seem like either ripoffs, stock personalities, or ones that try (too hard) to be different. You get the Superman-like Justice, the Wonder Woman-esque Warrior Woman, the "loser who wants to be a hero" Larry, the "snobby sidekick" Golden Boy, and a faceless mass of filler extras. On the other hand, you have the smoking, cursing old lady Ruth, and the rude-but-with-a-past Scarlett. Some of them get a second layer as Thom starts to come out of his self-centered head, but their backstories are mostly dealt with in info-dump outbursts rather than by increments. Personalities are sacrificed for singular, emphasized traits (ex. Larry wanting to be a hero), but at least the author did not leave all of them as 2D caricatures.

Writing
☂☂.5

Considering that the main character is a teenager, the lame insults and incredibly childish dialogue (by adult and teen characters alike) may seem fitting. As someone who is rather picky about the flow, pacing, and vocabulary of what I read however, I have to say the writing disappointed me almost as much as the awful plot devices.
That's not to say this book is unreadable since I was quite amused by some parts, but I would not call this top-notch writing, even if it is YA.

Ending
☂☂.5

I wasn't amazed by the reveal of the "villain" towards the end, but it didn't disappoint me either. Perhaps it was because of all the entirely vague and ambiguous actions every character in the book seemed to take, I was already beyond the point of feeling surprised. The final showdown I thought was just a mess of action and incomprehensible sacrifices that bore no amount of logic whatsoever (especially the part with the suicide splat and the rocket, WTF). Still, I was satisfied that Goran and Thom end up together for their own little happy ending.

Reading Challenges
A to Z Challenge 2010 → H for Hero (title)
Stand Alone Challenge 2010
TwentyTen Challenge → Young Adult
GLBT Challenge 2010 → gay characters/romance + February Mini-Challenge (PoC)
Young Adult Challenge 2010

Meme Features
In My Mailbox: 2010/01/03
Teaser Tuesday
GLBT Challenge 2010: February Mini-Challenge
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6 comments:

Amanda said...

You know, I've seen a couple really meh reviews of this. I've wanted to read it for a long time but I keep pushing it back.

Melissa said...

I love how you break down your reviews. I haven't read this, but I hear the voice is a bit hard to follow. Either way, great honest review! :)

robby (once upon a book blog/fourteen years) said...

I almost read this for summer reading last rear. I came SO close. But I switched books last minute. I'm glad I did.

MissAttitude said...

A bit of a spolier-y review, me thinks? Haha, I really don't care since the book just sounds OK. I want to read this, but I'll definitely put it on hold for during the summer sometime. The ending sounds interesting at least.

I love the way you write your reviews too, you really break it down.

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

8D THEY END UP TOGETHER?! (Is there satisfying make out scenes?!) lalalala may consider slogging through it sooner rather than later despite the superhero-ness....

Akilah said...

This book was a hot mess. I'm glad to hear that other people hate it as much as I do, even if you did score it a little high. The ending pissed me off so much. Your WTF is pretty much my reaction as well.