Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: Hero-Type

Title Hero-Type
Author Barry Lyga
Genre YA Literary Fiction
Rating B+

Summary Kevin Ross (aka, Kross) has done something heroic--he saved a girl, Leah, from an on-the-loose serial killer, The Surgeon. Unfortunately, Kross doesn't get to retain that hero status for very long because he steps out on a limb and goes against the grain of high school culture. (Plus, he didn't feel that heroic to start with because he wasn't necessarily innocent in how he "stumbled across" The Surgeon's attack on Leah.)

First Line "You know those pictures of fat people? I'm talking about the ones in the ads for the diets and weight-loss drugs and stuff like that. You know them..."

Review In the opening paragraphs of this book Lyga is setting up a scenario in which Kross says he's a "Before" picture--ugly smile, bad teeth, bad skin, scrawny physique--which is a set up for the first 85-90% of the book where Kross does some serious self-loathing. And, in my estimation, the self loathing isn't completely off base (nor does Lyga want it to be).

Plot: The plot of this book was good--not a lot of "action" per se, which I think a fair number of guys might want in their reading, but I enjoyed it. I also immensely enjoyed the ending. The ending makes all of the 85-90% of Kross' self-loathing completely worth it. At some points there might be a tendency to get bogged down in the story and want to give up (I admit that during the second debate on free speech, which kind of goes on a little too long in my opinion, I started skimming). My recommendation to would-be readers of this book is: don't put it down, skim, skip, do whatever you must, but get to the ending. You need to read the ending. The ending is awesome.

Characters: I had mixed feelings about the characterization in this book. The characters that Lyga uses most prominently--Kross; his friends Flip, Tit, and Fam; Kross' family; Leah; and the high school "it" boy, John Riordon--are all done very deftly. They all are distinct characters with interesting idiosyncrasies that are essential to the plot and development of the book and their interactions are worth reading and thinking about. Unfortunately, my problem lies in the fact that there were other characters who muddied it up, most notably were two other friends in Kross' inner circle nicknamed Speedo and Jedi. I think that Lyga might have wanted some additional friends in the circle for laughs and/or to make it plausible when the Band of Fools pulled some pranks, but they were throw-away characters. (And I hate throw-away characters.) I strongly feel that a character should impact the story, be moved to the background as a nameless, faceless "other person at school," or cut all together. But above all, please don't leave them in the book with a bunch of details and back story that you want me to remember if they're non-essential to the book.

Themes: All that being said, the subjects that Lyga tries to tackle: What makes a hero? How should we judge others? What does freedom mean to us? etc., are all important topics for young adults (and older adults) to be thinking about, and the author does a good job of presenting them so that teens can do that grappling.

The final verdict on this book is that I think that Lyga writes about great topics in an incredibly relevant way for teens, this isn't his strongest book, but it's still really good.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

I'll have to check this one out, seen it floating about, but wasn't quite sure what it was. I too like my action, but I'll give this one a shot. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!