Note:  The main character of this book is struggling to come to terms with being gay.  The book deals with themes of homosexuality and acceptance.

Author: Perry Moore

Publication: Disney / Hyperion, 2007

Pages: 432

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Thom Creed’s mom disappeared years ago and his dad is a once famous superhero who’s now despised by the public for failing to stop a disaster that cost thousands of people their lives.  They live in the smallest home in their neighborhood and his dad struggles to keep his rage and frustration under control as he works at factory job that he can’t stand.

Meanwhile, Thom is beginning to discover powers of his own.  He’s been invited to try out for The League – an association of the world’s most powerful heroes.  The only problem?  His dad was kicked out of The League and now hates all superheroes.  The only thing he hates more than heroes is homosexuals, and it just so happens that Thom is also gay and struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.  To top it all off, his dad used to be Major Might, the world’s most powerful hero – and definitely not the kind of guy you want to piss off.

Despite the dangers, Thom tries out for The League and finds himself on a probationary team with a cool bunch of misfits: Typhoid Larry, who has the power to make everyone around him violently ill; Miss Scarlet, who’s rage is almost as powerful as the fire she can generate with her bare hands; and Ruth, a geriatric smoker who can see the future.  Together, with the elusive Dark Hero it will be up to Thom and his companions to uncover a plot that threatens to destroy the world.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Moore has done a wonderful job reimagining what our world might be like if heroes with superpowers were a common and accepted part of daily life.  In most ways, the world he presents is unchanged from the one we live in.  The alterations are subtle, but just enough to make it work:  for example, an allusion to Captain Victory, the world’s first costumed hero, killing Nazis and storming the beaches of Normandy.

The characters are wonderfully drawn and completely inventive.  Typhoid Larry is a hoot – just the concept of a hero who takes down his enemies by puking on them is so totally off the wall.  And then there’s Ruth, who drives like a maniac and always has a cigarette dangling from her lips, but underneath it all still has a kind heart despite her dark and violent past.

Moore also does a wonderful job of keeping you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out just what it was that turned the whole world against Thom’s dad – how he fell from being the world’s top hero to someone who is almost universally despised.   Moore strings out the clues bit by bit until the very end of the book.  It’s infuriating at times, but it works, and by the time we finally learn the truth we’re actually ready to appreciate it far more than if he’d dropped it on us in the first 50 pages.

What I Liked the Least: The book was a bit slow to get going.  I’m not sure why – there was nothing in particular I could put my finger on – but the first 100 pages I read in dribs and drabs. I didn’t feel attached to the book and even put it aside for a few days.  But not long after that it really took off and I didn’t want it to end.

How Good was the Action?  Excellent.  It isn’t non-stop action by any means, but there are quite a number of good scenes.  The best ones by far are the bus chase where Thom first encounters Dark Hero and the rest of The League, and the final battle that pits Thom and his companions against the entire League.  This last one was truly outstanding, a top notch action scene with lots of great blow-by-blow detail and some highly inventive action.  It really kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last moment trying to figure out how in the world Thom would manage to survive and stop all the enemies that were coming at him, some of whom were virtually invulnerable.

How Engaging was the Story?   Moore combines top notch action with emotional depth in a way few other writers manage to do.  His characters are fully drawn, highly imaginative, and have very deep and complex emotional lives.  And that’s not just true of Thom.  It extends out to his father, Miss Scarlet, Ruth, his elusive friend Goran, and even their team leader, Golden Boy.  This is a wonderfully rich story peppered with exciting action sequences.

Overall Assessment: I hope you won’t be turned off by the rather overt themes of homosexuality in this book, because it truly is an amazing story, a rich mix of action and deep emotion in a wonderfully imagined world not so very different from our own.   This is a great reading experience, and for anyone who’s still not convinced, the venerable Stan Lee –co-creator of Spider Man, the X-Men, The Hulk, and the Fantastic Four to name just a few – has called Hero “An unforgettable experience – not to be missed.”

Profanity: Yes.  Some of the characters are definitely prone to using four letter words.  I should note that a few of the characters, including Thom’s dad and his elusive mother – drink fairly heavily so there are also lots of references to beer and other types of alcohol and a fair bit of drinking going on.  Finally. his dad, his mother, and Ruth all smoke, so there are more than a few references to people lighting up cigarettes.

Sex: Some.  Thom lusts after Uberman, one of The League’s top heroes – and he has a brief make-out session with a strange man he meets in a parking lot – kissing and a bit of touching, but nothing especially graphic.  Miss Scarlet briefly recounts a sexual escapade she had, but again, nothing graphic.

Violence: Yes.  But it’s not excessively graphic for the most part.  There are quite a few fist fights and fights involving powers , and in the end a few people do die and Thom’s dad gets his hand cut off, but there’s never much blood – if any – and certainly no gore.

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