I admit it, I’m old school. I became a librarian because I like to read, and I became a teen librarian because YA is my favorite genre (and, y’know, I don’t think teens are half bad, either). So as my new project for the YALSA blog, I’ll be writing a regular mini-feature called “Books to watch out for,” which is…exactly what it sounds like. With Fall ’08 releases just around the corner, I’m really excited to be starting these entries now.
I mostly ignored my Bloglines feeds over the long weekend, but today I listened to an interview on NPR with Sarah E.H. Moore about her book Ribbon Culture: Charity, Compassion and Public Awareness, which I have not read. A $75 price point will do that to you. But hearing Moore speak on NPR made me think that now is the perfect time to talk about a book that is, among other things, about ribbon culture and how charity and compassion are not always its primary points. Hero-Type by Barry Lyga is set in the same high school as Lyga’s two previous YA offerings, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy. Set just weeks before the opening of Boy Toy, Hero-Type focuses on junior Kevin Ross, Kross to his friends. Kevin was catapulted to stardom after rescuing a classmate from a serial killer. He’s been given the key to the city and appeared on national television. The only person who doesn’t see Kevin as a hero is Kevin…until the ribbon fiasco.
As part of the mayor’s gratitude toward Kevin, Kevin receives a car. Before he drives it off the lot, the mayor sticks two magnetic ribbons to the bumper. You know the ones, the yellow ones, or the red-white-blue ones that say “Support our troops” and the like. Kevin doesn’t think much about the ribbons but his father, who served in Iraq during Desert Storm, screams at Kevin to take the ribbons off the car and throw them in the trash. Kevin follows his father’s orders, not knowing that a reporter photographs him trashing the magnets. Now Kevin is painted in the media as someone who hates America, who doesn’t support the troops, and who is much more villain than hero.
If you ask Barry Lyga what Boy Toy is about, he’ll tell you it’s about baseball. In that same vein, I’ll tell you that Hero-Type is a book about a car. There is a LOT in this book, topic-wise, from heroism to patriotism to free speech to the high school social ladder to apathy to romance, and it’s always thought-provoking if a little unwieldy in places. It’s a good next-read for those who liked Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, one to consider for book groups.