The last thing in the world Thom Creed wants is to add to his father’s pain, so he keeps secrets. Like that he has special powers. And that he’s been asked to join the League – the very organization of superheroes that spurned his dad. But the most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself: he’s gay.
But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world to Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, who can control fire but not her anger; Typhoid Larry, who can make anyone sick with his touch; and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide; but they will have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League.
To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he’ll have to come to terms with his father’s past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community I feel like I’ve failed myself in a way by not exposing myself to more queer YA and literature. So for the month of May I did my best to pull from the lists of recommendations friends have given me over the years and finally read some. That being said, I wish I had skipped over Hero.
A Lambda award winner (which did nothing to impress me as the Lambda awards did not include a Bisexual category until 2006, after they had made two bisexual works to compete in the Lesbian category, and also allowed a highly transphobic work to become a finalist in the Transgender category in 2003. Gay exclusivist much?), this book did anything but appeal to me. This book was one of the campiest books I’ve ever read, with annoying characters, an unbelievable plot line, and a lovely heaping of gaslighting.
First of all, this book can only be considered humor, which I expected when I went in. However, a lot of what I assume was supposed to be funny actually fell flat for me. Thom was a complete idiot who never seemed to think, let alone do anything that made sense. He, along with every other character in this book (except for Ruth, she managed to not annoy me every other page) did nothing interesting for the entirety of the story. The characters themselves did not even seem to be fleshed out. Scarlet (the most basic name for the angry, sassy white girl with *gasp* red hair and fire powers. Groundbreaking.) existed solely for Golden Boy (Goldmember?) to want over, provide some angry female firepower, and later have a disease that would suddenly make her a likable character. Golden Boy, another gaslighter when it came to Thom, really just wanted to bone Scarlet and run the whole show. Annoying. Typhoid Larry was honestly forgettable, since I don’t remember him doing much or really being present. Ruth, the only likable character in my opinion, dies because of Thom’s lack of first aide knowledge. Amazing.
Second of all, the whole premise, while interesting I suppose, did not meet any kind of expectations I might of had. There is a rule in writing that I was taught early on that has to do with magic. When magic is involved in a story there are two things to keep in mind; if magic is being used against your main character it can be shrouded in mystery. Your reader doesn’t need to understand it because it is working against the protagonist. However, should your protagonist have magic, and be using it for themselves, then the reader must understand the magic. We need to know everything. In the case of Thom’s magic (i.e. his superpower) we are left in the dark as much as he is for the entire novel. Thom just stumbles upon how to use and control his power. There is no effort for any powers to be explained, besides Typhoid Larry I guess. Furthermore, Thom’s powers are not put into a scope that makes sense. He can just always heal himself and other people. Suddenly when he needs it most he learns to turn his energy into combat skills. When Larry splatters all over the ground Thom can just put Humpty Dumpty back together again. No explanation. No limitations. Good thing he’s such a Great Guy™, and only wants to use is endless power for good.
Thirdly, I feel like I was supposed to you know, feel something when both of Thom’s parents die in the final battle. I was supposed to feel betrayal when his mother revealed that she left his father for Justice. I was supposed to I guess, sympathize with the family somehow. Honestly I hated Thom’s father. He spent the entire book basically gaslighting Thom and invalidating his emotions. Perhaps it’s a realistic representation of how some parents react to their children’s coming out and maybe I’m being too harsh, but I saw him as a shitty father and person. Also, if he was so important to Thom it didn’t really show after he died, since Thom seemed to be just fine moving on to making out with Goran or whatever his name was.
Fourth of all, who names a character Goran? His and Thom’s entire relationship made no sense, and the fact that they ended up together kinda was mostly just unrealistic and annoying. They talked all of, three times I think? Their relationship was about as well thought out as a typical white m/f romance that packed the shelves of our middle school libraries.
Honestly, when it comes to LGBTQ+ literature this novel has reminded me why I have avoided it for so long. Since Hero represents the early efforts of the genre, it still appeals to a majority heterosexual audience. One LGBTQ+ (usually gay and white) as the protagonist. And plenty of hetero romance to spare. Exhausting. Where are the Afro-Latinx bisexual trans pirates we all deserve?