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Just Your Average, Ordinary, Gay Teen Superhero

July 5, 2010

by Perry Moore
Published by Hyperion, 2007
ISBN 1423101952
Pages: 432
Ages: YA (late teen)
Awards: Lambda Literary Award – Best LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Novel

Browsing the YA shelves of a bookstore, I came to the realization that there really wasn’t a lot of variety in terms of the sorts of books I was seeing. Without taking any sort of formal survey (I don’t have that much free time) I figured that I was seeing something along these lines:

Apparent Distribution of YA FictionOf course, I wasn’t just looking for any YA fiction – I was looking for YA fiction with LGBTQ characters or themes. I began thinking about it, and realized that the picture was even more grim for that “sub-genre”; with the exception of a couple of Levithan’s somewhat sci fi offerings, all of the LGBTQ books seemed to fall squarely in the argyle section of my pie chart.

Hero book coverA notable and refreshing exception is Perry Moore’s Hero – a debut novel by the executive producer of the Narnia films. It’s definitely a LGBTQ book, but don’t look for any argyle here – think spandex and capes instead.

Hero is the story of Thom, a talented high school athlete wrestling with two secrets. The first is that he has superpowers – a problem because his father is passionately opposed to the antics of heroes who use powers instead of mortal strength and gadgetry. Basically, Thom’s dad would decidedly prefer Batman to Superman – not too surprising, since he’d been a Batman-esque superpowerless hero during his prime.

Thom’s second secret is that he’s gay.

Hero chronicles a portion of Thom’s life as he gets involuntarily outed, recruited by the local superhero league, learns to use his powers, falls in love, and tries to make his father proud of him. Moore weaves in subplot about Thom’s fellow superheroes and their own problems, skillfully crafting a message about discovering and respecting the person beyond what circumstances have made of them. Ultimately, Hero isn’t about sexuality – it’s about treating one another as human beings, and taking care of one another.

There’s some strong language, including some fairly explicit sexual remarks, as well as your good ole-fashioned comic book violence; I’d recommend this book for mature teens and adult readers. Fans of the superhero genre will enjoy it as well. It’s been one of the more enjoyable reads I’ve had in recent history, and I truly believe that anyone who loves a good story could spend several pleasant hours between the covers of this novel. Word has it that a movie adaptation is in the works – here’s hoping they do a good job with it, because this would be a terrific film, too.

(Parts of this review were originally printed at Did You Have Juice?)

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