Hero - Lupika

Author: Mike Lupica

Publication: Puffin, 2011

Pages: 304

Overall Rating:  bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  When Zack Harriman’s dad, who just happens to be the President’s personal trouble shooter, dies in a mysterious plane crash, Zack feels driven to find out what really happened to his father.  But the truth turns out to be far more crazy and impossible than Zack could ever have imagined.  His dad wasn’t just tough and confident, he had super powers, and now Zack has inherited his abilities.  But he better learn how to use them fast, because ‘The Bads’ are after him, and if he can’t hone his powers and figure out who to trust, his turn as a hero could be very short indeed.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Lupica does a good job of giving Zack a life outside of being a hero.  He sets up Zack’s life as the son of Tom Harriman in the immediate aftermath of his dad’s death.  This provides some great opportunities to explore Zack’s family and friends, his difficult relationship with a school bully, and his drive to understand how his father died.  The events that ultimately lead to Zack developing powers happen slowly enough that we have the chance to see him growing and evolving into his new role.

What I Liked the Least: The ending felt very disappointing.  When I read a superhero book I expect to have a big climactic ending with a knock-down, drag out fight with the villain.  I expect the hero’s life to be in grave danger, and perhaps the lives of his/her family and friends as well, if not the whole planet.  But in Lupica’s book, the climactic battle is extremely brief and there’s not even a clear enemy for Zack to fight against, just the nameless and unknown ‘Bads’ – and for the record, we never actually find out who the Bads are or what they’ve done.  As a result, I never felt all that concerned for Zack’s safety.

***Spoiler Alert***  Another disappointing aspect of Lupica’s story is that that about three quarters of the way through we learn that all the people Zack has so far fought weren’t real enemies.  They were tests set up by someone who wants to know if he’s ready to take on ‘The Bads’.  After that, I felt less concerned than ever for Zack’s safety.

How Good was the Action?  It was fine, but for a superhero book there wasn’t all that much of it, just a few short fist fights and one extremely brief final confrontation with ‘The Bads’.   The individual fight scenes are well done, but they were ultimately too short and spaced too far apart for me to really get caught up in them.  This story is definitely more about Zack’s evolution into a hero and his uncertainty over who his friends and foes are than it is an action novel.

How Engaging was the Story?  Zack’s a pretty likable character with just the right balance of strengths and flaws, and I really liked his best friend, Kate.  Her spunky, outgoing nature made it impossible to hate her.  They make a great pair with a lot of fun back and forth dialogue.  But perhaps the most engaging part of the book was trying to figure out who was telling the truth.  There are two people trying to advise Zack on his path to becoming a hero.  Each of them warns against trusting the other, and I enjoyed watching Zack interact with each of them in turn and trying to figure out who was his real enemy.

Overall Assessment: This is a reasonably good story about one boy’s transformation from normal teen to hero.  Unfortunately, as a superhero novel it falls far short of the mark.  The villains are not clearly defined, there is no looming danger threatening to overwhelm Zack and everyone he loves, and the final conflict is pitifully short and all too easy for a budding hero.  In short, it’s an enjoyable enough read, but if you want a superhero book with some truly evil villains and great climactic fights, I’d recommend Perry Moore’s Hero or Sarah Cross’s Dull Boy instead.

Profanity: None.

Sex: None.

Violence: A little, but it’s not at all graphic.

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