Saturday, May 01, 2010

Hero by Perry Moore

I really enjoyed this book. I found myself laughing out loud, but also being swept into the characters and their struggles, especially Thom's. I found this premise to be a hoot! The League, the tryouts, the bad guys and their plot, Typhoid Larry, Scarlett and Ruth are all great. But the underlying story of Thom's relationship with his father and his coming to terms with his sexuality make Hero an excellent coming-of-age novel.

I love character driven novels and this certainly fits the bill. I thought Moore did an excellent job developing these quirky characters and getting the reader vested in their lives and adventures. My heart broke for Thom as he tried to keep his secrets/identity from his dad, the disgraced former hero. His dad detests super-heroes and gays, at one point Thom's father says, "These people will never have a normal life. They are the ultimate downfall of our society." I would imagine many of our students feel this way if they aren't what their parents want them to be, and it may not be about their could be about grades, athletic abilities, looks etc...

I think one of the things that most appeals to me about this book is that it is not a typical GLBTQ piece of literature. Why can't gay teens be super heroes? I think this book makes a huge inroads into this genre. One reviewer comments, "It reflects teens' diverse reading interests; given the mainstream popularity of comics-inspired tales, the average, ordinary, gay teen superhero who comes out and saves the world will raise cheers from within the GLBTQ community and beyond." I would love to see a sequel which follows Thom and explores how he survives in his new skin.

I know this book might not have global appeal, but it certainly has a niche at the high school level. The students that I have given this book to have loved it. But universal appeal? I don't know. Do any ELA teachers think they might use it in the classroom? There is certainly lots of fodder for discussion.

I have been emailing Perry Moore, and he is wondering if we would post customer reviews of this book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. He is considering visiting our school next year and since we cannot pay him his full fee, as compensation he is hoping we could "talk up" the book on these venues. Anyone interested???

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hurricane Song by Volponi

I finished this book yesterday and it is still resonating with me. I can't say that it is piece of literary excellence, but it is a tremendously honest portrayal of the circumstance in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The description of life for these refugees in the Super Dome was horrific. I remember when this tragedy occurred, I was saddened, and sent money for relief...but I don't think the intensity of the situation hit me until I read this novel. The human suffering, extortion, gangs, violence...very intense.

Having said that, I think that was the best part of the novel, by far! I thought the secondary plot line that featured the relationship between Miles and his father was a bit contrived. But, I certainly felt that the author did a good job of getting us to feel Mile's disappointment in his relationship with his father, but doesn't develop it enough for my liking. Overall, I felt that the characters and their relationships take a back seat to the telling of the hurricane story. For that alone I felt this to be a valuable book! So many of our students lead difficult lives, a book like this could help us to see beyond our own tragedies, to see a more global picture. I would like to think it would foster a more empathetic view of others.

And, as always, you know me...I loved the epilogue! I thought this did a nice job of tying things together and fleshing out a bit more of the father's character.

I would have liked the author to have addressed where he obtained his information. Was it from a first hand account? Interviews with evacuees?

The fact that this was a short, fast-paced novel with lots of action would make it a great pick for reluctant readers...and a male protagonist doesn't hurt. I also think it would be a great book for using for discussion of sociology, American history, racism...lots of points for discussion. I could see this a great literature circle book, or a class read for freshmen or 15:1 ELA.

Anxious to see what you all think...and our timing was interesting, I actually read the book on the day of Mardi Gras!