From the Publisher
"Leavened by much humor…this neatly plotted look at what real patriotism and heroism mean will get readers thinking."KLIATT, starred review
"Lyga’s fans will be rewarded by his authentic teen characters, his willingness to tackle tough issues, and, most importantly, his ability to encourage a dialogue that is crucial to democratic participation."School Library Journal
"This novel proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature . . . a perfect discussion-group book and is extremely current in a unique way that is not political."VOYA, (4Q4P)
Children's Literature - Naomi Williamson
Kevin Ross, AKA Kross, goes from flying under the radar to hero in the blink of an eye and he is not so sure about the hero label that he has received in his hometown. Kevin has lusted after Leah Muldoon and when he saves her life, he thinks it can only get better. But Kevin has a secret and he knows that this secret would take all "hero" status away if the good people of Brookdale knew the real story. The reason he was in the "right place at the right time" was that he had been stalking Leahfor two years! As it is, he has been elevated to a higher plane where everyone knows who he is and watches what he does. Lyga has included it all: irreverence, sex, drinking, teen rebellion, with a debate on patriotism thrown in to create a very interesting problem for Kevin. Kevin's mom moved to California with his little brother after his parents divorced and Kevin lives with his father, who has a few secrets of his own. Lyga has the ability to get into a teen's mind and tell a story that is both clever and true to real life. Many teens will see themselves in this story as they read about a not so popular kid who makes it big, for a while. Reviewer: Naomi Williamson
VOYA - Kimberly Paone
Kevin Ross-Kross to his friends-has a life with more ups and downs than a roller coaster. He was an average pimple-faced high schooler, living with his eccentric father and making his way through life relatively unscathed. Then he saves a girl's life, and the whole town treats him like a hero, but Kevin wonders whether the fact that he was basically stalking the girl at the time of her rescue cancels out any heroism he demonstrated. Kevin's act has earned him recognition at school, in his community, and even on a national television program. But right when he starts to feel more comfortable with the extra attention, everything comes crumbling down-not because people find out about Kevin's dark secrets but because he is caught by a photographer peeling the "Support Our Troops" magnets off the back of his car and throwing them away. Now the spotlight is back on Kevin but certainly not in a positive way. Called un-American and a traitor by the same classmates who lauded him just the week before, Kevin finds his new celebrity status is as confusing and intrusive as it was when he was called a hero. This novel proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature. Lyga revisits South Brook High School, where his previous books are set, but he takes on unchartered waters with his discussions of heroism, voyeurism, and free speech, while regular teen concerns such as bullying, cliques, friendship, and crushes maintain their relevance in the story. This book will keep readers engaged, but it will also make them think about issues big and small. It is a perfect discussion-group book and is extremely current in a unique way that is notpolitical. Reviewer: Kimberly Paone
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
Everyone is lauding Kevin (Kross to his friends) for rescuing his classmate Leah from a notorious serial killer. What great luck that he happened to be in the right place at the right time, they marvel. Only Kross knows the truth: he was there because he was stalking Leah. He's been secretly videotaping her for years because he has a crush on her. But with the media fawning over him and the mayor giving him a car, Kross keeps his guilty secret to himself. It's just a single misstep from hero to pariah, though, when the mayor slaps "Support Our Troops" and "United We Stand" bumper stickers on the car and Kross's eccentric, secretive army vet father demands that he get rid of them, insisting "putting a magnet on your car does nothing for the troops. They're still over there, still dying." A reporter catches Kross tossing the magnets and publicizes it, and soon Kross finds himself publicly defending freedom of speech at school, debating, of all people, Leah's all-too-handsome and articulate boyfriend. This funny-but-serious tale of standing up for basic American liberties and revealing long-held secrets will remind some readers of Avi's Nothing But the Truth. Leavened by much humor, including the pranks played by Kross's good friends, the Council of Fools, this neatly plotted look at what real patriotism and heroism mean will get readers thinking. Another fine offering from the talented author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy, who provides a note at the end with some other ideas for supporting the troops. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up
In his third book set in South Brook High School, Lyga introduces Kevin Ross, the hometown hero revered for rescuing a local classmate from a serial killer. However, with each accolade and reward bestowed upon him, the teen becomes increasingly more depressed and filled with self-loathing. Only he knows why he was at the right place to save Leah Muldoon from "The Surgeon." Kevin's life becomes even more complicated when a local reporter photographs him throwing out "Support the Troops" magnets. Instead of explaining why he tossed them, the teen becomes politically engaged as he debates the relevance of the Pledge of Allegiance and examines what it means to support the troops. His unpopular opinions bring up his father's questionable past and ostracize him from his classmates and the community. As Kevin struggles to refine his opinions, he also questions his relationship with his estranged mother in California as well as with the Catholic Church. Readers will be interested in the mystery surrounding Kevin's obsession with Leah Muldoon and his father's dishonorable discharge from the military. Kevin's anguish and guilt are palpable; however, some of the situations, including the all-school assembly for an impromptu debate between Kevin and a classmate he has antagonized, stretch believability. Also, the plot takes on too many issues. Still, Lyga's fans will be rewarded by his authentic teen characters, his willingness to tackle tough issues, and, most importantly, his ability to encourage a dialogue that is crucial to democratic participation.-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD
Kevin Ross, aka Kross, receives a key to the small town of Brookdale and a free car from the mayor for heroically rescuing his schoolmate (and crush) from the hands of a murderer. His status goes from hero to goat, however, when news spreads that he removed the "Support our troops" magnets from the car he received. What follows is a nearly browbeating study of patriotism and freedom of speech. The story takes quite a while to get going, but Lyga rambles well. In fact, it's his keen sense of teenage boy-dom that keeps the plot from getting too weighty: Kross and his friends all have code names and are part of a club called The Fools that has a goofy dedication to activism and hijinks. Even flag-burning becomes a madcap adventure instead of a heavy-handed mission. Still, the seams that hold this tale together are glaringly obvious and may limit the audience. The message, though important, is more than clear; readers will really have to love the characters to see it through to the end. (Fiction. YA)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Surreal
Everywhere you go, it seems like there’s a reminder of what happened, of what I did. You can’t escape it. I can’t escape it. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone suggested renaming Brookdale “Kevindale.” That’s just how things are working out these days. The whole town’s gone Kevin Krazy.
Take the Narc, for example. The big sign out front, the one that normally announces specials and sales, now says THANK YOU, KEVIN, FOR SAVING OUR LEAH. That’s just plain weird. The same spot that usually proclaims the existence of new flavors of Pop Tarts or two-for-one Cokes is now a thanks to me. It’s just surreal, the word my friend Flip uses when he’s slightly stoned and can’t think of a better word to describe something strange.
But I sort of understand the Narc sign. After all, Leah’s dad owns Nat’s Market (called “the Narc” by every kid in town except Leah), so I get it.
But . . .
Then there’s the flashing neon sign that points down the highway to Cincinnati Joe’s, a great burger-and-wings joint. Usually it just flashes JOE followed by SAYS and then EAT and then some-thing like WINGS! or BURGERS! or FRIES! or whatever the owners feel like putting up that day. Now, though, it says: JOE SAYS GOOD JOB KEVIN!
Even the sign at the WrenchIt auto parts store wishes me a happy sixteenth birthday. And when you drive past the Good Faith Lutheran Church on Schiffler Street, the sign out front reads: GOD BLESS YOU, KEVIN & LEAH. Which almost makes us sound like a couple or something. And I don’t even go to Good Faith. I’m what Mom calls “a parentally lapsed Catholic.” (Usually fol-lowed by “Don’t worry about it.”) Continuing the Tour of Weirdness that has become Brookdale in the last week or so, you can see similar signs all over. My favorite — the most surreal — is the one near the mall, where someone forgot to finish taking down the old letters first, so now it says, SPECIAL! SAVE KEVIN ROSS IS A HERO!
Gotta love that.
And, God, don’t even get me started on the reporters.
You probably saw me on TV. First the local channels and then — just this past weekend — the bigtime: national TV, courtesy of Justice!. I didn’t want to do the show, but Justice! was one of the big contributors to the reward money. I don’t have the money yet, and it’s not like the pro-ducers are holding it hostage or anything, but when someone’s planning on dumping thirty grand into your bank account . . . I sort of felt like I had to go on. Dad said it was my decision, but I could tell he was waffling. It’s like, one part of him figured I deserved the money, and another part of him hated the idea of this big media company having that over my head, and another part of him probably wanted the whole thing just to go away.
They (you know, the Justice! people) filmed in Leah’s living room, Leah being the girl whose life I saved.
See, here’s the deal the way I told it on TV and in the papers: I’m walking along near the Brookdale library and I hear this scream from down the alleyway. So I go running and there’s this big guy and he’s hassling Leah and he’s got a needle in his hand.
He was big. I was — and am — small. But I couldn’t help myself. I just threw down my, y’know, my backpack and I charged him and somehow I managed to get him in a wrestling hold like they taught us in gym class. He dropped the needle and Leah screamed again and the guy grunted and tried to shake me off, but I was sticky like a parasite, man. I just held on and tight-ened my grip and he couldn’t move.
And Leah called 911 and that would have been that, but it turns out the guy in question was Michael Alan Naylor. The Surgeon. Or . . .
“The man responsible for a series of abductions, rapes, and murders throughout the Mid-Atlantic,” said Nancy deCarlo, the host of Justice!, just before she introduced me to the nation in all my zitty, sweaty, panicky glory.
They stuck me on Leah’s sofa with Leah, who looked poised and calm and radiated perfec-tion. It was like “Beauty and the Beastly” or something. Nancy talked. I listened. I answered her questions, but I can’t really remember it at all. I was too caught up in the moment, sitting so close to Leah that I could smell her perfume and the hot TV lights and the Justice! people run-ning around and everything. It was crazy.
They showed a reenactment of the whole thing, shot in grainy black-and- white, with some little emo kid playing me, running down the alley, jumping . . .
It was TV. They didn’t tell the whole story, of course.
Maybe that’s because I didn’t tell them the whole story.