Hero Type (by Barry Lyga)

21 12 2011

In these dark December days of meaningless symbolism, Barry Lyga’s Hero Type is the perfect antidote for the disease of a generation: apathy. Lyga’s third novel – and the fourth set in Brookdale –  about a boy who goes from zero to hero and back to zero again, faster than you can say “Justin Bieber had a haircut“, should be present in every school library.

Kevin Ross (known as Kross to his friends in the Council of Fools) becomes a hero overnight because he saved Leah Muldoon’s life from The Surgeon, a notorious serial rapist. Despite the fact that he is praised on billboards around town, gets the key to the city and a large financial reward to boot, Kevin doesn’t exactly feel like a hero, because he knows that when he saved Leah’s life, it wasn’t really because he just happened to be in the right place at the right time… Kevin feels conflicted about his new status to say the least, but when he takes down the ubiquitous “Support the Troops” ribbons from his brand new car because his father, a veteran soldier, tells him to and that he ‘should know better’, confusion is the least of his problems. At school, Kevin suddenly finds himself as despised as Michael Moore at a Tea Party gathering.  Kevin, however, is not one of those complacent teens and rather than wallow in his newfound outcast status, he actually starts thinking (gasp!) for himself and starts to realize that maybe his father – for all his craziness and reluctance to talk about his military past – might be right. When opportunity presents itself (twice) to discuss his opinion in a school debate, Kevin decides that it’s time to show what type of hero he really is: the thinking kind.

Hero Type shows Barry Lyga at his best. Yet again he delivers on readability and relevance. Just like his other 3 books set at Brookdale High, any teenager reading this will recognize elements from their own high school life: the different types of students, the different types of teacher, the romantic struggles, the social awkwardness etc. All so very real. On the other hand, Hero Type is not just yet another piece of empty reading material of the consumerist society. It’s about something, something that is unfortunately the hardest thing to do for a teen a human being: finding your own voice, rather than doing and saying things because everyone else is saying or doing them . What the cat means to say is: it’s not preprocessed stuff.

Writing a book about what it means to really “support the troops”, the use and non-use of symbols, and the very nature of free speech, is hard when you don’t want to sound too preachy. Yet that is exactly what Barry Lyga does: he never preaches, but shows and lets the reader decide. Publishing a book like Hero Type in the copy/paste era is of the utmost importance.  And reading this book will make anyone think for themselves, and that is what makes you into a hero.

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