Oct 20, 2013

[Books] Hero

I had heard good things about Hero for some time now among LGBT book circles, but for the life of me I had next to an impossible time finding a copy. So I gave in and finally acquired one online just so that I could finally read this popular coming of age LGBT superhero book.

I know, that's a lot of genres coming together, but the end result is pretty impressive and I can see why it has become such a popular book. Despite the challenge of juggling so many concepts all at once, the end result is pretty impressive and the different working parts come together beautifully.

Hero is the type of novel perfect for fellow gay geeks still in the closet or perhaps still coming to terms with their sexuality. The protagonist is gay but that doesn't define who he is. The protagonist also has superpowers, but that doesn't define him either. This is a very character-driven story, and Moore made sure to give his key characters some decent substance to work with.

Synopsis: Hero is a young adult LGBT superhero novel written by openly gay film producer Perry Moore. Moore had written the book in response to the various comic book LGBT characters that had died or were abused in one way or another.

Thom Creed is a 16 year old living alone with his father, Hal, given his mother had left them some years ago for unknown reasons. Thom happens to be a member of the school's basketball team, but is also struggling with two secrets - being gay and having superpowers. His father is an ex-superhero who never had powers and was somehow disgraced, thus leading to the end of his career. His father has very strong opinions against homosexuals and also superpowered individuals - something that forces Thom even deeper into the closet.

During a basketball game Thom manages to use his powers to heal an opposing player that had been seriously injured. But the use of his powers triggered a seizure as he struggled with the use of his powers and the fact that one of the opposing players had called him a faggot in public. Thankfully his father did not hear the slur nor did he notice Thom's use of his powers (like the rest of the crowd), but this struggle continues on for a better part of the book. Things change even further when Thom receives an invitation to tryout for The League, which is a superhero team in the area.

The novel is told from Thom's perspective, and thus the whole narrative remains very personal in that regard. And the reveals about Thom and his life at large is gradual and flows naturally from page to page, just how you'd learn about another person through an actual conversation. Thus the revelations about him being gay or him having powers don't all come out at the same time like some lead paragraph for a newspaper article. Instead we follow Thom along his current routine and learn more about him along the way.

And he certainly has his share of struggles. His power hates two aspects of his identity after all and thus he has to hide both. They're not a well off family and so he's juggling his basketball obligations with his school work and with a bunch of part time jobs just to try to help make ends meet. His father has his own baggage to deal with in terms of his crime-fighting past and his current inability to secure a decent enough job to make both of their lives more comfortable.

But despite everything going against Thom, the book doesn't even sound depressing in how it depicts things. Yes, Thom's life is no walk in the park, but then again everyone has problems so that's not exactly new. And that aspect of the tone does help keep the book feeling realistic despite the presence of superpowered beings. It makes Thom all the more relatable since he's not some kid who magically has everything that he needs in life with his being gay somehow becoming the only hiccup in his life. He has a lot of crap to deal with and he's doing his best to keep it together.

Not all characters get the same degree of attention though, which is a shame since there are a number of interesting folks that enter the story that I'd like to know more about. Sure I can forgive how the a-list superheroes are blatant echoes of the DC Big 7 heroes - that actually felt like a smart decision. But people like that first injured boy Goran and the other probationary heroes that Thom ends up working with - they could have used a bit more substance.

The story is nicely plotted with a good amount of complexity and mystery worked in. The overall mystery of heroes being murdered by some unknown for is compelling enough and works well for most of the novel. The end felt a bit abrupt in the sense that it felt like the explanation that Moore came up with wasn't one that we could have figured out as readers given the facts presented, but then it still worked for the most part.

Hero is definitely a novel I'd recommend to any gay geek. It's a good read and one that everyone is bound to be able to relate to on one level or another. Plus decent superhero novels aren't all that common just yet. Thus the book rates an awesome 5 creative superpowers out of a possible 5.

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