Friday 5 August 2011

We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton

Pages - 475
Published by Egmont in August 2011
Book kindly sent by publisher.

My dad was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York. I was only two at the time so don't really remember him much, although when people ask, I say I do. People ask about my add a lot. I usually respond with a shrug or by looking at my shoes. But no one seems to mind: it's  OK if I'm rude or even a bit weird at times, because I'm the boy whose dad died on 9/11.

Book synopsis
My dad was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York. But the stuff in this book isn't about that. It's about the summer my mum went away. The summer that me and Jed and Priti tried to catch a suicide bomber and prevent an honour killing. There's stuff about how we built a tree house and joined the bomb squad; how I found my dad and Jed lost his; and how we both lost our mums then found them again. So it's not really about 9/11 but, then again, none of those things would have happened if it hadn't been for that day. So I guess it's all back to front, sort of...

This book is written in first person by the lead character Ben, in a sort of diary format. After being shipped off to his grandparent's for the summer, whilst his mother recovers in hospital from a breakdown, he finds himself a little lost. Straight away, you find yourself warming to Ben. He is the child who lost his dad during 9/11 and that thought runs through your mind on constant replay, especially if you remember watching the events that played out on that day as the Twin Towers collapsed. You get the impression that the immediate world around just stopped turning when his dad died and he is expected to feel the same as the older generations in his family, yet he doesn't remember his dad hardly at all, as he was only a toddler. Ryan doesn't want to forget his dad, neither does he want his life to stop; he wants to move on and he wishes his mother and grandparents could do the same.

It is really hard not to review this book without mentioning My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, as there are some similarities. Both stories are told by young boys, only Ben is a couple of years older. Both boys have lost a relative during terrorist attacks which catapulted each family into grief and destruction. Both characters have befriended a Muslim child, showing that children are not aware of religion or the colour of someones skin when choosing their friends.  So you can see some similarities in the stories at the beginning, but that is where they end. We Can Be Heroes goes off on a completely different road.

For that summer, Ben becomes part of a trio, accompanied by Jed, his cousin, who was always trying to live up to his father's unrealistic demands, and Priti, a superbly sassy character, who stands up for what she believes in. These three join forces for the summer and basically let their imagination get carried away, causing all sorts of issues for the residents of his grandparent's street and causing immense damage to people's lives. If just one adult had perhaps listened in on one of their conversations, events would not have deteriorated as far as they did. 

I disliked Uncle Ian from the moment he entered the book. His ignorance annoyed the hell out of me. I understand he was suffering from grief but his actions were reckless. 

This book deals with grief in a big way. It shows you how far grief will make you descend before you can begin to take steps to climb back up the ladder to normality. Within the book, Ben finally gets to know his father, as his grandparents begin to come to terms with their grief and remember the good times which they relay to Ben. 

Throughout the book, Ben writes lists of questions about different people. The things he would like to know but perhaps is afraid to ask. These questions really give an insight into how his mind works and were one of my favourite parts within the book. Also there are some great manga pages at the back of the book! 

My only little niggle with this book is that I felt it could have been a little shorter, as a lot of the action seems to occur near the end. Other than that, I thought it was a well written, topical book with an excellent array of characters. 

I found this book to be a thought provoking read, where I found myself travelling back in time to the events of 9/11. Like many, I watched in fear and horror, as the world stopped to witness such an atrocious event that affected so many families all over the world. As the years have passed, I found that I very rarely gave thought to the families who suffered and who are possibly still reacting to the aftershocks from that event. For that I am truly sorry.  This is definitely a book I would like to see in secondary schools, so that the teenagers of today can learn from the past and hopefully change the future.


  1. I love that this book is tackling such a tough subject for kids.

  2. I do like what the book is about. Even those hard subjects should be talked about

  3. Wonderful review, Vivienne. This sounds like an excellent book. During my recent trip to NY, I saw the Freedom Tower(s) being constructed.

    Congrats on being chosen blog of the month by Sunshine Smile Publications! You do have a terrific blog. :)

  4. Thank you for that brilliant review and the copy for the tour site :D

  5. brilliant review Viv!! I agree, I would love to see this one in schools and it does bring across an important message!!

  6. Wow, this sounds like a pretty powerful book and one I definitely would have picked up as a teen to read. Would probably still do the same. :)


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