Hero, by Perry Moore

So I do realize today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which is an event that shook not only the USA, but the world.  I wasn’t really sure what to post today.  Fortunately, I did not know anyone personally involved, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.  While I’m all for picking up the pieces and moving forward, a certain amount of respect and recognition seemed to be in order.

Oddly enough, I was recently greatly moved by a fictional book that not only contains an event that parallels 9/11, but it has a title and theme befitting the day.  It seemed like an unusual, but still respectful, way to honor the day.

Now, I have to make a disclaimer right away and state that this book is usually filed under young adult fiction.  I admit that I enjoy young adult fiction, and always have–ever since The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier.  But for all you folk who think young adult fiction is just for kids, you’d be very mistaken in today’s market.  Some of the best fiction out there currently falls under this label.  The book Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to you, another marvelous, bittersweet, and moving book by James Cameron was widely regarded as more suitable for adults, and many reviewers hoped it could surpass the “young adult” label because of it’s highly mature themes.  Along these lines is Hero.  I’d heard of this book, but never got around to reading it until recently.  My only regret now is that I didn’t read it a lot sooner.
A synopsis isn’t really going to do it justice, but a lonely teen (Thom), who is coming to terms with his sexuality, discovers he has superpowers.  Sadly, his own father is homophobic, and a disgraced hero himself.  You see, in the process of killing a vicious alien, his father allowed a building full of innocent people collapse and die.  He doesn’t want his son being a hero–despite Thom’s own secret wishes.  Thom’s struggle for acceptance in both capacities are inspiring, funny, and heartwarming.  He makes a lot of mistakes (as we all have), and ends up meeting other heroes in training.  But when the more established heroes start getting murdered, Thom finds himself in the middle of perhaps another world wide catastrophe.
My passion for the book increased even more upon hearing why Perry Moore wrote it.  Oddly enough, this all started from the Hard Heroes party I visited a while ago.  (And okay, I am not a comic geek, so I may be a bit off on details here–I’m sure the geeks can correct me if needed.)  One guy was made up to look like North Star.  I didn’t know who North Star was, so I asked my BF.  He told me North Star was one of the first openly gay comic characters.  Although it was almost a token gesture… he came out in the early/mid 90’s, and then you never really saw him date a guy, talk about gay issues, etc.  Apparently later, the character was killed by Wolverine, which was quite controversial in the gay comic world.  When Perry Moore heard about it, he felt there should be a more positive gay hero, which prompted him to write the book.  Moore had also complied a list of LGBT comic characters have have been killed, which is quite sobering to read.
Of course, if you didn’t know, Moore died earlier this year, which makes the book even more tragic to read now.  He was reportedly in the works of a sequel.  Now, I’m not saying the book is perfect.  Perhaps because he was planning on writing more, the ending is not quite as satisfying as it could be… it seems far too rushed and brief.  And a few characters are not as well written as others.  But the main character of Thom is tremendous, both vulenerable to mistakes, but heroic in how he does find inner strength at just the right (and sometimes wrong) times.  To me, Thom more than makes up for any flaws the rest of the book may have.  I still get misty eyed just thinking of him and what he’s gone through.

I’m hoping this turns into a movie (which is/was being worked on as well), as it does have all the elements.  But even if it does come to light, I’m dubious they’ll be able to bring all the charm, wit, and sensitivity the book does.  Moore may not be around any more, but read the book (even if you’re not a young adult anymore) and make his memory live on.  Thom’s sacrifices do ultimately end up saving the world… it gives me hope that maybe the real Thom is out there for all of us, or, better yet… within us.

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