Author: Perry Moore
Format: Various, available from Amazon (I read the paperback)
Date Read: 28/04/2014 – 01/05/2014
I’m using the GoodReads ratings system for this book – it was better than “okay”, but I wouldn’t really go as far as to say “I liked it”. It had a lot of promise but something about it fell flat in the delivery.
Thom Creed is sixteen years old, and coming to terms with not only the fact that he is gay, but also that he is developing superpowers. His father is a disgraced superhero who has banned all superheroics from their house, and is also quite homophobic, so for a boy who just wants his dad to be proud of him… yeah.
Perry Moore was inspired to write this novel after compiling a list of 60 gay comic book characters who all met untimely ends, or were at least tortured, vilified and ostracised by the other heroes (somewhat akin to the Women in Refrigerators list compiled by Gail Simone and others to show the treatment of female characters in comics). He wanted to portray a gay superhero who actually got a happy ending, who is accepted by his friends and who doesn’t end up somehow screwing everything up for himself and everyone else.
This is an admirable cause and I think that the struggles of a gay teenager coming to terms with his sexuality were well done. It was things like the crushing disappointment Thom felt when the guy he liked mentioned having a girlfriend that convinced me of this aspect of the story. I read that Perry Moore was very conscious of avoiding the cliches that often plague gay characters, and I think he was quite successful at this.
The problem is the superheroes. For a start, they are all thinly disguised versions of the DC heroes with which we are already familiar. Superman (“Justice”) is there, as is Batman (“Dark Hero”), and plenty of others. The heroes-in-training with Thom have interesting powers, I guess, but their characters are all pretty generic. There were no parallels between the secret identity of a superhero and the secret identity a gay person might have to protect, something I took for granted would happen from the moment it became clear Thom was gay. While this isn’t exactly an original trope in the superhero genre (X-Men, anyone?), it would have given some depth to the world the novel was set in, which felt rather empty and under-developed. The novel’s Big Bad and climax also came pretty out-of-the-blue, and while I’ve read other reviews of this book that say it was obvious who was killing heroes (oh yeah, did I mention there’s also something of a murder mystery going on?), I didn’t see it that way. Then again, I do often miss details that give away things like that, so maybe I am the one who’s wrong here.
All in all… this book tries really hard, and I admire that, but I think it tries to be too many different things and that is its downfall. A better edit and some more development would have done wonders.
(Disclaimer: I apologise for this review not being up to my usual standard… time has got away from me the past couple of weeks and suddenly it is 10pm on Review-Friday night and I have to finish the post. Blah.)