April 20, 2016

Everyday Hero

by Kathleen Cherry
Orca Book Publishers
168 pp.
Ages 8-11
March 15, 2016
Reviewed from advance reading copy

Everyday Hero is the story of thirteen-year-old narrator Alice who moves to Kitimat with Dad while Mom stays in Vancouver temporarily to assist her elderly parents.  Alice is very clear in her own mind about who she is, what she likes and dislikes, and what she can do and can’t and doesn’t want to do. But Dad refuses to tell the middle school of Alice’s Asperger’s, convinced she’ll have a chance to be a normal kid without the label.

This omission results in a series of detentions where Alice meets Megan, a goth-inspired teen who seems to attract negative attention but is also the only one who recognizes and helps Alice with her vulnerabilities in social situations, with distractions from routine, and with confusing verbal expressions.  While Alice is wondering whether she can be normal, “average in type, appearance, achievement, function and development” (pg. 54), Megan gives her opportunities to be so. But when Megan decides to get away from her mom’s abusive boyfriend and meet up with an online friend in Vancouver, Alice does what any normal friend would do: she tries to keep her friend safe.

Kathleen Cherry balances Alice’s story on our vague but overwhelmingly-supported ideas of normalcy by demonstrating that anyone can be normal, just as anyone can be a hero, in the right circumstances.  Don’t assume Alice’s thoughts, powerfully reflected in the seemingly erratic and tangential text, are evidence of anything but something normal, though they are manifestations of the syndrome with which she  is labelled. Kathleen Cherry, as a school counselor, get Alice’s voice just right.

Everyday Hero is heavily character-driven though it focuses on the issues of trust and responsibility.  But the message about the perils of labelling and trying to make everyone fit into one definition of normal is clear, and Everyday Hero helps the reader see into a very different but just as real one.

(A version of this review, in conjunction with one about Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell by Liane Shaw, was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2016, May). [Review of the book Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry]. Quill & Quire, 82 (4): 37.

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