I fell in love with superheroes in college, and no storyline is more endearing to me than the "coming out" or "coming of age" arc when the hero realizI fell in love with superheroes in college, and no storyline is more endearing to me than the "coming out" or "coming of age" arc when the hero realizes the potential in his powers and struggles to come to terms with them. Most stories of that type center on the superhero himself, and all the angst associated with realizing he's some sort of freak shunned by the society he aims to protect.
One of the things that makes "Masks: Rise of Heroes" so different in this genre is that the main character is not the superhero ~ he's not even the sidekick. He's just your average teenage boy with raging hormones who constantly seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eric Plath is sixteen, precocious, and lusts over the new superhero in town, who seems to have an uncanny knack for saving his hide.
I really liked Eric ~ his voice, dialogue, and actions rang very true to life. As the story progresses, he learns more about his best friends, Peter and Althea, and his emotions also hit the mark. I also loved spunky Althea, who seems destined to play the role of fag hag for the rest of her life (get used to it, honey, is all I'm saying; take it from someone who knows). And Peter quickly grew from the nerdy "best friend" in the wings into a character of his own right, the perfect foil for Eric: level-headed, weighed down with responsibility, and so very much head over heels in love.
The story takes place in a very somber setting ~ Vintage City. The author's use of language to describe the atmosphere really helped set the mood, and contrasted nicely with Eric's internal landscape. Lines I particularly liked were:
"... rain that seemed to be made of liquid metal."
"Understated jewelry sprouted like sparkling lichen on her arms and neck."
"The wild, manic expressions on the horses' faces and the wide-eyed, watchful looks with which wooden cherubs regarded carnival visitors had that distinct glamour of madness to them. I couldn't help but stare back."
There is a lot of humor infused in the story, as well. The author's turn of phrase sometimes made me laugh out loud ~ Eric has a quick, sardonic wit that I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly in his internal dialogue:
"My glasses clung to my head by one temple with a death grip around my right ear."
"He had a cleft in his chin. God help me, he had a cleft in his chin."
There is also a very strong love element throughout the story. While Eric is already out with his family before the book starts, and is very comfortable with his sexuality, the relationship that grows between himself and Peter is his first true romance. And while the story is YA or "young adult," the boy is sixteen. There are quite a few places where the author subtly reminds the reader of that fact, in such wonderful phrases as:
"Then I dreamed of him 'arresting' me and taking me into custody. Not once did I demand to see my lawyer, and yes, I came willingly."
The reason behind Magnifiman's superpowers is nicely explained, though we don't learn much about the Devil's Trill. The plot involving his interest in Eric comes up in the final half of the book, bringing all elements of the story together to a satisfying ~ if rushed ~ conclusion, but there are still many questions left unanswered. "Masks" ends abruptly, until you realize this is the first in a trilogy, and I hope that the other two books will fill in the bits readers are left wondering about in Book 1.
For a story about caped superheroes and maniacal villains, the human element shines through, a realistic thread that makes the tale believable. What makes super powered heroes so irresistible to us isn't so much the desire to be rescued from our own devices or mundane lives, but rather to know that beneath those rippling muscles, somewhere within that super-smart brain, lies the very same heart, the same emotions and thoughts, hopes and dreams ~ the same soul ~ that lies within us all.
I found myself drawn into the story almost immediately, and couldn't stop turning the pages to get to the end. This book is a great start to what looks to be a fun series about superheroes among us. I can't wait for the next part. ...more
"Forever the Fat Kid" is a riveting journey through one man's life. It offers us an introspective view in a way most of us have not yet been able to a"Forever the Fat Kid" is a riveting journey through one man's life. It offers us an introspective view in a way most of us have not yet been able to achieve over our own past. Boyd's memoir is more than a coming-out story, and much more than a survival tale of a fat kid trying to find his way in the world.
I'll admit, with a title like this, I had expected a lot more angst over weight issues than were detailed in the book. While Boyd touches on the struggle with his weight, after the Introduction, the issue seems to take a back seat to the rest of his story and I found myself drawn into his life as easily as if it were a movie playing out on the screen before me.
Reading this book is like sitting down with an old friend and catching up on what has happened to them in the intervening years. Boyd's family is comprised of vividly characterized people who come alive among the pages of his book -- from his mother and father, to his sisters and aunts and siblings, through his first loves to the many friends he made in theater.
The tone of Boyd's prose is both facetious and endearing; with a gentle voice, he retells the humorous with the upsetting. Through his words, the reader feels the same deep passions he feels in all aspects of his life. We experience his joy at finding a place for himself among the stage and later on Broadway, and we also ache with his sorrow when personal tragedy strikes, as when his beloved sister is injured in a car accident, or as his parents age, or when some of his friends fall victim to AIDS or or suicide or depression.
In reading this book, of particular interest to me was Boyd's "coming out" journey. Amid all the opinions about sexuality we hear in the news (whether it's innate or learned), it's refreshing to hear Boyd state explicitly that he always knew he was gay. Two of my favorite lines in the book show this well:
"If I had been born without genitals and never had a single sexual liaison in my life, I would still be gay."
"Being gay is so much more than whom you choose to have sex with."
It's wonderful to see such powerful language used to embrace one's own sexuality in so positive a light. While I understand every person's journey is different, I enjoyed the no-nonsense, matter-of-fact way Boyd addresses the issue. I came away with the feeling that his being gay was very similar in manner to his being black -- something he couldn't control nor wanted to change.
And speaking of race, being a child of the '80's myself, it was very eye-opening to relive the prejudices of the past through Boyd's eyes. It's all too easy to forget racial segregation once existed, and living "up north," Boyd wasn't aware of it himself until he visited relatives in the South. Such early memories underline discrimination he faces later in life, this time against homosexuality. For every two steps forward we take in our fight for equality, there's always that one step back that reminds us there is still much to do before all races, all creeds, and all sexualities are treated as one.
Boyd's memoir is set against the volatile backdrop of an America on the brink of acceptance, when civil rights for blacks and gays were being forced into the forefront of our collective consciousness. Being on the cusp of change, it transcends your average "coming of age" tale and addresses every struggle in his life. From sexuality to race to finding his own path in the world, he retells his story with aplomb and panache. By the end of the book, you feel as though you've made it into Boyd's inner circle of confidantes, and you're sorry to close the page on someone you now consider a friend....more
Thorne continues the Masks series with Evolution, which pits superheroes Magnifiman and Calais against two new supervillains while following the borinThorne continues the Masks series with Evolution, which pits superheroes Magnifiman and Calais against two new supervillains while following the boring, average life of Eric Plath, boyfriend to Calais' alter ego, Peter Barlow. As the book's title suggests, this story is an evolution of the characters ~ Eric, his boyfriend Peter, and their gal pal Althea, in many ways. The dynamics of their relationships are forced to change when a new supervillain appears on the scene ... as well as a new female superhero, to whom Peter instantly connects. The only person who doesn't have any superpowers is Eric, a fact that becomes more and more evident as his friends seem to drift away from him.
I thoroughly enjoyed this installment in the series, perhaps more so than the first book. Once I started reading, I literally couldn't put it down, and I raced through the final few chapters with my heart in my throat, on the edge of my seat, hoping against hope that somehow everything would be tied together neatly at the end, and hating that I'd have to wait for the final book in the series to see that happen.
Here we get a visceral account of Eric's personal demons ~ the normal pangs and problems that plague adolescence are compounded by a boyfriend who is too busy saving the city to focus on their relationship and a nagging feeling of incompetence that leaves Eric wishing for any small thing that might make him "fit in." Thorne tackles these difficult emotions with finesse, leaving the reader as frustrated as Eric over Peter's distance, and by the end of the story, we sympathize completely with Eric. Making us understand and, dare I say, condone his actions in the final two chapters is nothing short of brilliant writing. When you read the story, you'll see what I mean.
In this book, as in the first, there were many phrases that stood out to me, bringing the story to life. My favorite line was one where, after a terse standoff between Eric and Peter, Eric finds a rose in his school locker from his boyfriend:
"When I saw it, the universe started all over again. The slate was wiped clean, humanity's sins were all forgiven, the greenhouse effect never happened, and the earth was only two days old."
Such observations capture the immediacy of teenage love and angst perfectly, making Eric more human, more believable, and, in the end, easier to relate to for readers of all ages.
Eric's signature humor is refined in this book, as is his raging libido. He still harbors a secret crush on Peter's older brother, Magnifiman, and when he sees the superhero on TV:
"You will ~ and I swear this ~ feel the hard hand of justice tightening around you!"
My breath caught, my cheeks heating up. "You promise?"
Thorne's writing is fresh and open, indicative of the characters and respective of their ages without being condescending or "too old," as some YA writers tend to be. Eric and his friends are drawn very well, their dialogue believable, their actions true to life. Eric's emotions hit the mark, detailing a feeling of loneliness and ostracism to which we can all relate.
Though the main character is a gay teenager, Evolution will appeal to superhero fans of all ages and sexualities. What starts out as a fun story turns into an emotional roller coaster ride as Eric deals with issues that resonate with us all, and while we may not agree with his actions as the story progresses, we understand his motives completely. If you enjoyed the first book in this series, you'll love this second installment. And, if you're like me, you'll be waiting with bated breath for the final story....more
At 17, Laura Amores is a Cuban teenager in Miami who attends a Catholic high school. But when she is caught reading a letter from a friend and not payAt 17, Laura Amores is a Cuban teenager in Miami who attends a Catholic high school. But when she is caught reading a letter from a friend and not paying attention to the class, the nun reads the letter aloud. Turns out, the missive is from Laura's girlfriend, and details an intimate relationship Laura has kept hidden from everyone.
Suddenly friends Laura has known her whole life turn on her. Her own mother is mortified at her immoral behavior and throws her out of the house, refusing to speak to or even see her until she decides to become straight. Even the girlfriend seems to buy into that mentality, returning to Puerto Rico when her brother discovers their relationship and choosing to settle down into a loveless marriage instead of fighting for her heart's desire.
The only people who stick by Laura is her childhood friend, Soli, and Soli's mother, Viva. They take her in when she has nowhere left to go, and they love her unconditionally. Soli, an over-the-top hairdresser with a zest for life, tries to convince Laura to embrace her sexuality. But the pain of being outed in front of her classmates, coupled with being shunned by her own family, has left Laura confused. If she weren't gay, none of this would have happened.
This story is a wonderful look at the confusion that many feel when they're on the path to discovering their own sexuality. Laura denies that she is gay -- her belief is that she was in love with a girl, but she can't say the words out loud, even to her new queer circle of friends, for fear of a rejection similar to that she suffered when she was first outed. So instead, she vacillates between a growing attraction to a beautiful girl she meets at a gay club and the desire to be accepted as "normal" and "straight." Throw in a growing friendship with a confident lesbian who self-identifies as a "boi," Soli's unrelenting pressure to own up to her own heart, and her mother's continuous cold shoulder, and the reader will find it hard to put this book down until the very end.
Laura's journey rings true. Many times I found myself frustrated with her, only because she couldn't readily embrace who she was, but I had to keep reminding myself she was only 17. The road to self-acceptance is a hard one, for anybody, and the author doesn't go easy on her character. Laura is torn apart emotionally, her life a roller coaster that anyone who remembers their own turbulent teenage years will identify with all too well. When she finally begins to figure things out for herself, the change is vividly written:
"Something comes over me. I feel as if I've finally taken off a tight iron mask that I've been wearing all my life."
"It's about finally letting go of the fear that didn't allow me to be who I truly am."
There is something for everyone in Laura's story, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, genderqueer, or questioning. Through her tale, she grows into a stronger person, more sure of herself and her heart. In the final pages of this book is a lesson we can all embrace, an acceptance not only of ourselves but of others around us, as different as they may be. Laura learns to embrace her sexuality ~ and, through the process, learns who loves her unconditionally and, in return, is deserving of her love....more