Grade 6-9–While Heck, a talented artist and cartoonist, is spending the evening with his best friend, his single mom goes into "hypertime," a place where she never has to assume adult responsibilities. Once again, the 13-year-old assumes his role as superhero. Unfortunately, the causes of his mother's breakdown are beyond his control; she's lost her waitress job and they've been evicted from their apartment. He searches for her for three days, trying to do the Good Deeds that he hopes will allow him to find her. He struggles with a severe toothache, sleeps in a car, and tries to earn money for food. The climax comes after Heck befriends 18-year-old Marion Ewald, who is determined to release the "pocket creatures" that he thinks live in his jacket to their own planet. After the older boy jumps to his death, Heck finds his mother in the hospital and reminds her that he is not a superhero but a boy who also needs help. The help begins to come. Heck is a likable, resourceful character, trying to do the right thing in almost untenable situations. Secondary characters are also well developed. Most of the adults are supportive, willing to help, though largely uninformed. Most notable is the depiction of Heck's art teacher, who recognizes the boy's talent as well as his problems and provides subtle, sympathetic support. Credible characters are placed in recognizable situations to create a poignant, fast-paced, and believable look at homelessness, mental illness, and the way one boy copes with their impact.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library
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Gr. 7-9. When life stops making sense, 13-year-old Heck retreats into his drawings. A talented artist, he creates powerful superheroes that save the world with one good deed--just like Heck wants to be able to do. However, when his mother, who is prone to depression, disappears, leaving him homeless, penniless, and with an intense toothache, Heck must face the world in a way he never has before--truthfully. Strong supporting characters such as best friend Spence and Marion, an older, mentally ill teenage boy whom Heck befriends, add depth to this engrossing, evocative novel that spans and intimately details Heck's struggle to survive on the streets in a world that isn't as clearly defined as that of his beloved superheroes. Some situations (Heck's experience with a street drug, for example, and Marion's suicide) are more appropriate for mature readers, and the ending feels somewhat rushed. But Heck is a well-drawn, sympathetic protagonist who learns that compassion is a superpower, and that asking for help can be the most heroic act of all. Shelle Rosenfeld
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.