We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton

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We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Lovely book about dealing with loss, family breakdown, and community attitudes. There is strong characterisation and sparkling dialogue although Bookbag wonders if 500 pages is a bit stretched for a kitchen sink drama aimed at tweens.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1405256524

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Ben is spending the summer with his grandparents because his mother is ill again. She won't stop going out for runs and is not eating properly. She's gone back to stressing out about having the "right" cutlery and worrying about technology and health hazards. And her beautiful hair has started falling out. Ben's father was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and with his mother incommunicado, he's feeling very lonely indeed.

Not that he's ever actually alone, though. His cousin Jed is also staying at Granny's. Loud, spoiled and boorish, Jed is a pain in the neck. And then there's Priti. Priti is only eleven, a year younger than Ben, but she has the vocabulary and self-confidence of a grown up. She also has a feverish imagination. Before Ben knows it, he's caught up in Priti's narrative of honour killings, suicide bombers and race riots. All going on in Granny's quite little cul-de-sac...

This is a story of coming to terms with grief and loss and how, unacknowledged, these two emotions can have serious consequences. Ben's father died over ten years before this story begins but this terrible event still hangs over his entire family, affecting everything they do and every relationship within it. Grandad has retreated into Little Englander mode, resenting immigrants and all Muslims. Uncle Ian is angry all the time. Granny is paralysed by grief. Ben is terribly reserved, living life through comic strips he creates both in his mind and on paper. And Mum is so traumatised by this loss that she isn't even in the story: she's in hospital. And Granny and Grandad are cross with her because, as they see it, Ben has lost not one parent, but two.

It's beautifully written in accessible and sensitive prose with really strong characterisation and sparkling, vivid dialogue, especially from Priti. We start out disliking Priti for her brashness and insensivity and Jed for his boorish, spoiled ways. But once we understand them, we end up liking them a great deal. Bruton also asks the reader to confront prejudice - both the snobbisness dislike of white trash families and of the racism that brands an entire community guilty for the actions of a few.

I thought this was an important book: brave, honest, funny and very tense. I do have a slight reservation about its length - almost five hundred pages seems a tad ambitious for a kitchen sink drama aimed at tweens - and I thought we could have lost a scene or two and made it both a little more tight and a little less daunting. But otherwise, I loved We Can Be Heroes and heartily recommend it to you.

My thanks to the good people at Egmont for sending the book.

Further reading could include A Million Angels by Kate Maryon, a bittersweet story of a little girl coping with a father in the army and away on a tour of Afghanistan, or The Reminder by Rune Michaels, an outstanding look at the various ways a family cope with the death of their mother.

Buy We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton at Amazon.com.


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