I have to admit that Barry Lyga’s previous books (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy) never made it to the top of my TBR pile. However, the buzz had been steadily building around his latest offering, Hero-Type, and I was excited to receive a review copy from the publisher. It immediately went to the top of my TBR pile strictly based on the cover, which I loved. In a departure from my usual reading habits, I dove into the book before reading the blurbs on the back or the inside flap. And boy am I glad I did!
Kevin is a hero. Bonified, through and through, saving a girl’s life hero. When he attacked the Surgeon, a notorious rapist, he saved fellow classmate Leah from certain death. He receives a key to the city, a large reward, and a lot of fame. What he can’t do is get rid of the guilt he feels. “If they only knew….” he thinks. Why was he in the right place at the right time that day? Is he really a hero? Or is he just a Hero-Type?
Rewards and gifts seem par for the course when you become a local and national hero. One of the best gifts is a majorly discounted car from the town mayor, who also owns the car lot. When Kevin brings his new ride him, his father notices two “Support the Troops” magnetic ribbons on the back bumper. He demands that Kevin remove them and throw them out. Kevin’s dad is an Army hero, even though he never discusses his experience. So when he demands that the useless ribbons be removed, Kevin does it without a second thought. Unfortunately, a reporter is hanging around trying to catch an interview with Kevin and snaps some pictures of his “unpatriotic” behavior. Soon enough, the pictures are picked up by the local and national media and Kevin is once again thrown into the limelight. But this time, he is reviled as a villain. From nobody, to hero, to villain in a matter of days.
It’s a furiously fast turnaround from “Local Teen Saves Life” to “Why Does Local Hero Hate America?”. Even faster is the turnaround at school. Kevin is worshipped one day and despised the next. But the worst part is that he starts to understand why his dad hates the magnetic ribbons. And Kevin agrees with him. Suddenly, he is spending his free time researching freedom of speech and flag-burning laws across the globe. And he is speaking out at school, which only leads to more threats and violence aimed at him.
But at least it keeps his mind off of what he did, the reason he was there to save Leah from the Surgeon. The real reason…
Kevin isn’t a likeable character all the time. In fact, some of his actions are downright creepy. But he is real. Lyga accurately captures the insecure voice of a nobody, a high school loner. He struggles with his looks, his friends, his dark secrets, and fitting in at school. Lyga also draws the secondary characters very well, particularly Kevin’s friends Fam and Flip.
It’s hard to sum this book up in a short review. There are a lot of issues here- the true meaning of patriotism (which reminded me a bit of Avi’s Nothing But The Truth: A Documentary Novel), dealing with divorce, growing up, guilt, and more. But this isn’t a preachy book. Lyga never tells his readers what they should feel or believe. They struggle alongside Kevin to form their own views. There are no neat answers and Lyga makes that perfectly clear.