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Billy Harriman knew walking home from school that something was wrong. He knew as he crossed Central Park and headed towards 5th Avenue that something wasn’t quite right. His biggest fears came true as he opened the door to his apartment and his mother, housekeeper, best friend Kate, and “Uncle” John waited for him. Billy’s father, Tom, was not coming home --- ever.

Tom Harriman had graduated from Harvard, was the special advisor to the President of the United States, and had connections around the world. When he wasn’t globetrotting, he was at home watching basketball with Billy and basically being one of the best fathers in the world. Which made the mystery surrounding his death even more troublesome. Tom’s plane crashed on Land’s End, far away from any airport and with no clues as to what happened. Billy, though, intends on finding answers even if everyone around him has told him to move on.

The answer Billy was not expecting came in the form of a Mr. Herbert, who was waiting for him at his father’s plane crash site and has the most interesting stories to tell. Mr. Herbert informs Billy that, among other things, everything he knows about his father is a lie. Most importantly, Billy has the magic in him. Suddenly, everything Billy knows is cast into doubt, and, to his astonishment, the so-called magic starts working.

Slowly, Billy discovers a wealth of powers he never knew he had. He’s able to seemingly fly through the air, fight bad guys with lightning-fast reflexes, and always seems to know what needs to happen next. The one thing Billy doesn’t know, however, is who to trust. Mr. Herbert shows up at the worst times always sharing confusing information about Billy’s dad and Billy himself. “Uncle” John, a long-time family friend, also gets involved and tells Billy that he’s in over his head.

Events in Billy’s life also start escalating. His best friend, Kate, is put in harm’s way, and he is forced to tell her his secret. His mom is helping a local Senator prepare a presidential campaign rally in Central Park that is sure to attract unwanted and dangerous attention. The mystery surrounding Billy’s father’s death reveals a new threat that Billy is not prepared for. And Mr. Herbert and Uncle John keep telling Billy that something bad is coming, and it’s up to him to be something he isn’t prepared to be --- a hero.

One of the masters of the sports genre, Mike Lupica adds a new twist to the superhero story that any young person will gobble up. HERO has it all: mystery, intrigue, bad guys, superpowers, and a conclusion that will leave you breathless. Billy is a reluctant hero who thinks there is nothing special about him, which is completely relatable to any kid who has thought this at one time or another. Even though Billy is forced to attempt to save the day in the end, it’s the journey to this point that makes the book special. I also have the feeling that this may not be the last time we see Billy Harriman either.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on November 2, 2010

by Mike Lupica

  • Publication Date: July 12, 2011
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin
  • ISBN-10: 0142419605
  • ISBN-13: 9780142419601