"Loaded with action and moral ambiguity, this is a classic superhero story with noir sensibilities."
"This is a superhero story for the post-punk era: Live fast, die young, and take over the world."
Marvin Maywood has a dream… to become a member of “the Core,” a group of super-powered individuals who protect the city of Loganstin from the ravages of crime. He knows their names; he collects their action figures. He even has the superpowers that could get him accepted into that elite unit. Unfortunately, these powers are fed by fear, which classifies them as “dirty” rather than “clean.” Marvin’s choices are reduced to either submitting himself to something called “power aversion therapy,” or living on the streets and trying to avoid the attention of “clean” powered individuals. This below-the-radar existence ends when he has a chance meeting with Roisin, the youngest member of Core. Suddenly, Marvin is pulled into a whirlwind of activity that might get him a shot at being accepted into the elite team, but will most definitely separate him from Yvonne and Kent, two similarly “dirty” teens who have shared Marvin’s life up to that moment. Marvin finds himself forced to choose between a slight possibility of being accepted into the Core, and his feelings of loyalty to his friends. Along the way, he discovers that the Core is hiding more than a few secrets. This story reads like extended work of fanfiction, with some of the key points echoing the worst stereotypes of teenage superhero fantasies; for example, the main character turns out to be ridiculously overpowered, especially when compared with other powered individuals. The story itself should be familiar to those who have read deconstructions of superhero mythology (ex: Watchmen). The narrative flows generally well, yet the final confrontation seems confusing and contrived. Some of the themes the book deals with are suited to a high school audience; in particular, a rape scene which, while not described in explicit detail, leaves very little question as to what actually occurred. As such, this book should be given to high school students, with some caution. The book deals with issues of fandom, friendship, loyalty, and deception. This title need only be placed in a high school library if no other “deconstructing superhero mythology” stories are available. Reviewer: Jonathan Ryder; Ages 15 to 18.
VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Jonathan Ryder
Hero Worship is a mixed bag. On one hand, the action and the atmosphere of the story are absorbing. The reader feels like she is experiencing Marvin's emotions right along with him, moment by moment. On the other hand, the story is a little cliché, with a couple of predictable plot twists and an almost disjointed, awkward connection between one scene and the next. The antagonist is not entirely believable in action, but personality is electric. The cast of characters is enjoyable: Marvin is optimistic and naïve; Kent is lovable and blustery; and Yvonne is intelligent and super tough. Together, they make a wonderful team, and they are a riot to read about. Reviewer: Rebecca Smith, Teen Reviewer; Ages 15 to 18.
VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Rebecca Smith
Gr 8 Up—In a future filled with superheroes, there are two classes: the elite members of the Core, whose powers are "clean," and the likes of Marvin and his friends, whose powers are "dirty" and therefore do not warrant official recognition by the Core. Marvin's power feeds on fear; he taps into the emotion of those around him and gains super strength. He's able to save a family being held at knifepoint by a gang of teens, but has to disappear afterward so that he is not recognized. The teen soon meets Eliza, a Core member whose alter ego is a superhero named Roisin. Marvin is starstruck and flattered that the great Roisin takes an interest in him. She even encourages him to try out for Core membership. This is a debut YA novel for Long, who writes for Marvel, DC, and Image comics. The writing is better suited to comics than traditional stories: the characters and situations feel a bit one-dimensional, situations often lack explanation and fleshing out, and the plot lags in a few spots. The main characters are not likable: Marvin is a worrier and Eliza is nasty. In one particularly disturbing scene, Eliza physically forces herself upon Marvin, coercing him into non-consensual sex. The protagonist moves on with little reaction and Eliza's motivation is not explored. Kids who get to the last 50 pages of the book will be rewarded when the pace picks up; Marvin comes into his own, and the plotlines start to make sense and build to a relatively satisfying conclusion.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, San Leandro, CA
This is a superhero story for the post-punk era: Live fast, die young, and take over the world. Unfortunately, it feels like a book with several chapters missing. In one scene, Marvin is training to join The Core, an elite group of superpowered heroes, and then, within a few dozen pages, he's the most wanted criminal in the entire city. Characters sleep together and then try to kill each other. It's hard to fault a book for being too exciting or having too many surprises, but this is the rare fantasy novel that could use a few more blocks of plot exposition. One of the biggest secrets in the book is revealed offstage, between the last chapter and the epilogue. The novel has the same fast pacing, actually, as an early superhero comic, although older comic-book fans may be shocked at the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll packed into a 264-page story. One character has the power to send a person into an altered state, and she has a steady stream of customers looking for a fix. Another is a Paris Hilton–esque socialite who hardly bothers with a secret identity--perhaps it would slow down her lifestyle. While these characters might not be patient enough to read a 264-page book, they're so memorable that readers might wish their story could have lasted a little longer, at least another chapter or two. (Adventure. 12-18)