Mike Lupica’s Hero, due from Philomel/Penguin Books in November 2010, is a variation on familiar territory for both Lupica and the teen-hero genre. 

heroWhen 14 year old Billy Harriman’s dad, the globetrotting special advisor to the President, is mysteriously killed in a small aircraft crash, Billy’s world is turned upside down.  Billy had always looked up to his famous hero-of-a-dad, but also secretly wished he’d been around more, instead of always putting others, and America, before Billy and his mom.  But now that his dad is gone and never coming home, he is forced to confront the anger, resentment, and longings he’d suppressed for years.

But that’s not the half of it; now, there’s something growing inside Billy.  Something dark, strong, and inexplicable: a sixth sense that warns him of danger; a need to be out patrolling Central Park and the streets of New York; and a drive to confront the “bads” and protect those around him.  Confronted by this growing power, and two adversarial elders giving him conflicting, cryptic advice, Billy wishes more than ever that his dad had been there for him more often and had prepared him for this strange, scary new reality.  And when things get really scary, Billy realizes he has no one to rely on but himself.

Lupica returns to issues between absentee fathers and sons, living up to a parent’s legacy, and coming of age without strong male role models in Hero, and doesn’t break any new ground.  Unfortunately, Hero doesn’t really add anything to the genre of teens realizing they have superpowers either. Sometimes slow going, the danger and threat from “the bads” isn’t very scary and the plot is really quite predictable.  The narrative flows the smoothest when Billy is on the court playing basketball at school and working out his issues with the stock bully in the book, which isn’t surprising since Lupica’s background and strength as a writer comes from capturing the nuances, pacing, and intricacies of sports action.  Hero certainly isn’t poorly written, uninteresting, or a waste of time, it just isn’t that compelling either.

  • Posted by Cori

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