Lyga, Barry. 2008. (September 2008 release, I believe). Hero-Type.
Overture (aka the Prologue)
You know those pictures of fat people?
I'm talking about the ones in the ads for diets and weight-loss drugs and stuff like that. You know them. They always show the "Before" picture of the person back when they were a big fat slop. And then they show the "After" picture, which is like this totally buff hottie.
Here's the thing about those pictures, though: For the longest time I couldn't figure out why the pictures were labeled "Before" and "After," because to me it was obvious they were two completely different people.
But I get it now--we're at least supposed to think that it's the same person, made over thanks to the miracle of whatever the company is peddling. It doesn't have to be just for weight loss. It can be for any big life change.
I've always been skinny, so I don't need to lose weight, but I think about those pictures a lot. Especially now. After my own big life change.
So why do my "Before" and "After" pictures look exactly the same?
First sentence of chapter one: Everywhere you go, it seems like there's a reminder of what happened, of what I did. You can't escape it. I can't escape it.
I was *thrilled* when I received an ARC of Barry Lyga's latest YA novel, Hero-Type. Boy Toy and The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl were great novels; they were novels that established Lyga as someone to be read.
Hero-Type is the novel of a young teen guy that is at first glimpse a true American hero. A young man who just happened to be in the right place at the right time to save a teen girl (Leah) from being raped and murdered. This "heroic" episode in Kevin's life gets him quick fame--national fame and local. But right away, the reader knows there's more to the story. We know because chapter one concludes with the first and barest glimpse of a confession: "Maybe that's because I didn't tell them the whole story."
Hero-Type also chronicles Kevin's fall from grace. From hero to villain. His so-called crime? The act that made the locals turn on him in an instant? He removed the patriotic-support-the-troop magnet ribbons from the car that a local dealership gave him. That's it. Thus begins the long and melodramatic crucifixion of his "good name." Kevin becomes the most hated guy in town. And Kevin's father isn't very far behind. An ex-soldier, a former hero, who is now seen as a villain because he's now anti-war. Because he knows that war is hell, and he doesn't want other people--other soldiers--to go through that hell like he did.
Kevin does find his voice, in a way, in a big way. But no matter what he says or what he does...no one seems to really listen to him. And it's frustrating, beyond frustrating for him. He never wanted to be a hero to begin with. Never wanted the attention. But he doesn't want to be the villain either. He doesn't want to live with this--and who would???--hatred following him around. He's picked on. He's bullied. He's beaten up. Kevin does begin to learn, to grow, from the experience, however. And chances are he'll be a better, stronger man because of it.
The story has many layers, many characters. And I won't get into all of them. It's complex. It's well-written. I didn't love, love, love this one, however. For one, I found bits of it a bit over-the-top. In a way, I can understand how his rescue of a girl might lead to some fame and some attention for a short period of time. Until the next big story hit. But the removal of a ribbon from a car? I don't know how that one act--it's not like he spray-painted "I hate America" on his car or anything--can get such media attention and lead to social disaster. I don't know how this act could go beyond the local media. It doesn't seem headline worthy to me local, state, or national. "Boy removes patriotic magnet." So what? But after a few chapters, I suspended my disbelief and began to get into the story. So it does work. And it is good.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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