Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hero Type by Barry Lyga

I recommend this book for: grade 8 and up

Kevin is a hometown hero after he saves a classmate from being abducted by a killer responsible for rapes and murders all over the country. Instead of a nobody, he's suddenly being followed by reporters and making appearances on national tv. He receives the key to the city and a new car. Then, a photographer publishes a picture of him removing the "Support the Troops" magnets from his bumper and throwing them away. Suddenly, everyone in his small town is against him, and Kevin finds himself defending not only his actions, but free speech in its many forms to a town that just isn't listening.

I loved this book.  It was complex - Kevin knows that saving Leah wasn't the heroic act everyone thinks it was, and what he calls his "inner Catholic" causes him guilt over a lot of his actions. What makes a hero or a villain was discussed without being preachy, and the debates Kevin has with John Riordan (and just about everyone else) over free speech vs. patriotism - and whether those two things are mutually exclusive or not - are fantastic. Was it entirely realistic for everyone to jump all over Kevin? Maybe not, but I can certainly understand him feeling like the whole world was against him.

Side characters were well-developed, although Kevin was certainly the most complex - he does things that you know are despicable, but he's still a sympathetic narrator, and his growth is impressive. The Fools are fun, and Fam is especially great for bringing out Kevin's cluelessness.  A very worthwhile read!  

Some mature content that includes plot spoilers - for details, start highlighting here:  Kevin and his friends drink, smoke pot, and play some pranks that could be considered vandalism.  There is talk about sex and some references to male anatomy.  Here's the big plot spoiler - you find out that Kevin was actually following Leah and videotaping her without her knowledge.  But he's not actually a crazy stalker - he feels bad about it, stops, and tries to make amends.  End of invisible text.

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