Hero by Perry Moore
Thom Creed is used to being on his own. Even as a high school basketball star, he has to keep his distance because of his father. Hal Creed had once been one of the greatest and most beloved superheroes of The League–until the Wilson Towers incident. After that Thom’s mother disappeared and his proud father became an outcast.
The last thing in the world Thom would ever want is to disappoint his father. So Thom keeps two secrets from him: First is that he’s gay. The second is that he has the power to heal people. Initially, Thom had trouble controlling his powers. But with trial and error he improves, until he gets so good that he catches the attention of the League and is asked to join. Even though he knows it would kill his dad, Thom can’t resist. When he joins the League, he meets a motley crew of other heroes, including tough-talking Scarlett, who has the power of fire from growing up near a nuclear power plant; Typhoid Larry, who makes everyone sick by touching them, but is actually a really sweet guy; and wise Ruth, who has the power to see the future. Together these unlikely heroes become friends and begin to uncover a plot to kill the superheroes.
Along the way, Thom falls in love, and discovers the difficult truth about his parents’ past. This is a moving, funny, and wonderfully original novel that shows that things are not always what they seem, and love can be found in the unlikeliest of places.
I bought this book almost a year ago when Kris raved about how fabulous it was. Sadly this gem languished in the corner of my book pile for way too long but I finally sat down with the hardcover recently and got swept up into the world of heroes and villains. This telling is absolutely engaging and entertaining, so much to the point that most readers won’t care about the myriad of problems that exist. Even with all the writing stumbles, plot holes, illogical leaps in knowledge, and dropped mysteries, this is a thoroughly fun and heart warming story. It has a happy ending of sorts, but not the one that most readers will root for. Either way, pick this up and indulge in the fabulous world Moore has created.
The story is told in first person from Thom’s point of view and relates his coming of age. He’s a young man who is struggling with his own sexuality, a dysfunctional home life with an angry father and an absent mother, and coming into his own powers. Thom’s life starts to change at the beginning of the book when a derogatory gay comment from a competitor at his team’s basketball game paints Thom as different. This strains Thom’s already distant relationship with his father and Thom’s journey to acceptance of his super powers, his sexuality, and his father take up the entire book. Of course it’s not just an emotional journey as the book is filled with super heroes, villains, acrobatics, and battles. Thom’s ability to heal people puts him on a probationary team for the famous League and brings no end of conflict and fun to his life.
The plot itself is decent but tends to get swept away with Thom’s narration. Thom is still immature in a lot of ways and struggles with growing up so the book often turns self indulgent, forgetting numerous plot points. For example, there is the mystery of who is killing the heroes and who exactly attacked Thom and his group. This is never explicitly answered and in fact, completely dropped. There is a scant bit of foreshadowing to point to the real culprit but how the huge battle at the end comes about is far fetched and the story doesn’t even bother trying to explain any of it. Instead the emotional angst of Thom is used to soothe over the leaps in knowledge, such as Thom’s press conference comment which suddenly becomes his sexual declaration even though that’s a big stretch. Furthermore, Thom himself often ignores information and action in favor of lamenting his own immaturity and relationships to others. As with any young man coming of age, Thom is inherently self involved and spends a good portion of the novel whining in his head about this while ignoring everything going on around him.
The story does take a turn when Thom “gets his head out of his ass” and starts to really take an interest in others around him. The characterization of Thom stumbles with this slightly but he’s definitely a sympathetic and immensely likable character. He is a sweet young man going through the growing pains of watching his father continually publically shamed for past actions while missing the presence of an equally self absorbed mother. And if struggling with super powers in the midst of all this wasn’t enough, Thom is exploring his sexuality like any other teenager. So the many facets of the young man are mostly well drawn and crafted, presenting a complicated, flawed but equally wonderful hero.
The characterization of the vast secondary characters is mostly well done from Thom’s team of misfits to the hero League, and even the character of Goran. Each is important to the plot and to Thom’s journey in different ways. The story has a few missteps here as for unknown reasons Thom doesn’t heal a number of his own teammates even though he’s healing everyone else, and his continued ignorance about Goran stretches reality. What shines the most though is the relationship between Thom and his father, Hal Creed. Hal is a disgraced super hero who was the only hero to possess no super powers. Even without that, Hal managed to be a very successful and beloved hero until a tragic accident forces Hal to take the brunt of public and private scorn. Hal struggles with his anger and bitterness from that life and the life he has struggled to provide for his son. A missing wife, who appears later only to highlight her own selfishness while providing closure for Thom, is a key to Hal’s unhappiness. The father/son relationship is often poignant and dysfunctional. Both Hal and Thom love each other very much but can’t figure out how to express that love and have the close relationship they both want. Hal has a very real struggle with accepting Thom’s sexuality but the private problems Hal experiences both help and hinder their relationship.
This book is certainly not without its faults, but I’d say those don’t really matter. The eternal coming of age is familiar and depicted in a manner that allows an entertaining story mixed with the maturity of its narrator. Thom emerges a changed, wiser, more mature young man at the end and his journey is a delight to read. I’d easily recommend this book to all readers and suggest that you let yourself enjoy the ride. The hero antics are interesting and the fast pace keeps the story moving almost lightening fast. More than anything, Thom is certain to charm any reader while Hal touches a poignant chord. A must read book.
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