I started reading "Hero" at 2am thinking I'd go through maybe a chapter or two before bed. I didn't even notice the sun rise until I had finished one of the best novels I've ever read. I can't praise Perry Moore's story enough. So often when diversity is touted as a worthwhile value, the LGBT community is completely left out of the equation. Not so with this book.
Hero shows that the story of a young gay hero can explore universal themes that will resonate with anyone with an open mind. I'm reminded of a favorite film of mine, "Bend it Like Beckham" by Gurinder Chadha. Much of the film revolves around the Punjabi Sikh community of the UK, but the story's depiction of generation clash and youthful ambition reached a wide audience. It looks like Hero is doing the same in the book world, and deservedly so.
I quickly grew fond of the main character Thom, a healer, and his ragtag team of D-List heroes. I wanted to give germ-bomb Typhoid Larry a big hug. Miss Scarlet the caustic firestarter and Golden Boy the stuck-up speedster I loved to hate (at least at first). And Ruth... that chainsmoking seer just totally kicked butt. She was my second favorite supporting character. But my favorite was Hal, Thom's father. Despite his homophobia, the love for his son was still there. Their troubled relationship rang true and elevated the book from good to exceptional. The superhero vs supervillain battles, twists and turns nearly every chapter, and two parallel love stories were icing on the cake. I especially loved all the homages that tweaked with my expectations.
My only regret with Hero is that I didn't have this book when I was growing up. As a gay kid, I believed that I could never truly be a good person, that I would never make a positive impact in anyone's life. It was a tough journey to weed out all the negative messages and recognize my worth as a decent human being, regardless of sexual orientation. Also, as an adopted, multiracial individual, it was heartening to see those parts of myself reflected in Thom's teammate, Golden Boy, despite him being such a prick. Reading Hero as a teen would've helped on several fronts. I have little doubt that Perry Moore would agree with the following words of Georgina Beyer, the world's first openly transsexual mayor:
"It is important to allow people who want to be positive contributors of our society regardless of sex, race, creed and gender to reach their human potential. We need all human potential to make our communities thrive, to make them more vital, the very centre of our reason for being and living. The most important thing at the end of the day is about people, people and people!"
The fact that Hero manages to convey a similar message with a spandex-clad adventure story rocks. I'm really looking forward to more of Moore's writing!
For a more in-depth summary of the book's plot, check out the review from my friend, Brian Andersen:
A gay, teenage Superhero? What a novel idea!