The Last American Hero

Zachary Harriman is a 14-year-old kid living in Manhattan who’s just discovered his heroic legacy. His dad, a “troubleshooting diplomat” for the United States, is a superhero. And his grandfather was somesuch thing too. As it turns out, all the Harriman men down through the years have been card-carrying superheroes.

But when Zach’s father dies in a plane crash, there’s no one around to give him a primer on being a hero. And that’s a problem. Now that he’s the last superhero left on the planet (we think), he’s become a target for every two-bit terrorist and tin-crown crime lord. In other words, Zach needs to grow up fast.

Unlike most YA superhero novels, this one doesn’t contain a smart-alecky best friend, or a kooky girl super genius to make things fun. In fact, there’s not much humor here at all. Zach’s father dies at the beginning of the book and his death foreshadows the story’s final resolution (as it should).

The book does contain a lot of sports lingo, however. No surprise considering the author’s sports-writing resume. Within the first few pages the elder Harriman is described as being quicker than Michael Jordan or LeBron James (we’re guessing that’s pretty fast). And since all the characters live in New York, there’s a lot of chitchat about local teams, especially the Knicks.

One final comment: there are a handful of striking similarities between Zach and Peter Parker. Both come from New York City and lose their father/uncle in a violent manner. Zach goes to Parker High School (!) and is harassed by a Flash Thompson-like bully. There’s some talk about great power and great responsibility, and he eventually develops something similar to spider sense. Once he embraces his superhero destiny, Zach says it’s like he “climbed into an old Fantastic Four comic.” That’s close enough for us.

[Hero / By Mike Lupica / First Printing:  November 2010 / ISBN: 9780399252839]

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