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We Can Be Heroes – Catherine Bruton

“My Dad was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York. I was only two at the time so I don’t really remember him much, although when people ask, I say I do. People ask about my dad 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”
Ben’s dad died on 9/11 but this book isn’t about that. It’s about the summer that his mum is ill so he stays with his granny and granddad with his cousin Jed and Priti, the little Muslim girl from over the road. It’s about the summer that Ben and his friends build a tree house and uncover a bomb plot. It’s about the summer that Ben learns a lot about life and a lot about his mum. And it’s the summer that is full of adventure.  But it’s the summer that wouldn’t have happened, had his dad not died on 9/11.
***
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I read the summary of this book. It was interesting and mind-blowing at the same time. It invited me in and left me intrigued and I knew I had to find out exactly what was happening that summer.
Ben is only 12… Sorry 12 and 8 months… Priti’s 11 and four months and Jed’s 14. The three of them, Jed reluctantly, end up friends over the summer that Jed and Ben are sleeping at their grandparents. It is quite strange to have a YA that involve characters so young but it works and I think Bruton got the ages and mindsets of the characters down to a tee. I didn’t once think that the characters weren’t acting in the way their age would suggest and the whole story comes about because of the ages they are.
This book has a few aspects which add to the storyline beautifully. One of the major elements is to do w3ith what an over active imagination from children who are on the cusp of teen years can do. The three of them have the imagination to think up elaborate schemes and situations but at the same time think they need to be adults about the situation. It was amazing to read the story through the eyes of a 12 year old boy and I thought “yeah I would think that too at that age” but I knew as an adult that it wasn’t what the kids thought.
I don’t want to give too much away so that’s all I’m saying about that one but the whole build up of the story was amazingly done! I could clearly see how each of the clues were gathered and put together and how the outcomes were established. I could see that the children were coming to the wrong conclusions and I had to keep reading on to find out what they would come up with next and what would happen next.
The voice of the book was amazingly easy to read. The books not small, my copy is 480 pages, and I did think that it may take a while to read but Bens voice slowed so well and the use of lists throughout the book really helped with the flow. I was very impressed about the way Ben handled things and his voice seemed so logical but unsure of himself. I loved Ben as a character and honestly just wanted everything to be ok. He was dealing with a lot, more so than a normal 12 year old should, but even though he was a bit confused about things he didn’t really lose it and just kept calm.
I kind of worked out the overall outcome of the book early on but I think that’s the point… I think the book is to show that not everything is how it seems and you are meant to know what’s going on way before the three kids do. The story is about the kids experience, more than the stuff that is going on, or at least it was for me and I loved it.
I’m finding it quite hard to write this review without giving much of the story away… it’s very much one of those that you want to read without knowing a lot about it and I think that’s what most people should do. All I really need to say is that the characters were amazingly developed and I felt like I knew them all personally. Bruton really had a way of making the characters stand out from the page and even though the story is told from the point of view of Ben I felt at times that I knew what Granny, Priti, Jed and Uncle Ian were thinking. It was amazing!
As a part of this development though I also felt like beating Uncle Ian up. I didn’t like him as soon as I met him and I seethed with anger every time I met him. This to me just shows how much thought that Bruton put into the characters because it takes a lot for me to feel that way!
We Can Be Heroes, is a brilliant coming of age story which shows how hard and strange it can be growing up in a mixed ethnicity environment knowing that people died due to fighting between these ethnicities. I loved that Ben didn’t feel anger or anything towards Priti’s family even though he knew that Muslims were responsible for his father’s death and it made me realise what type of person Ben was. This book is another that should be required reading in schools, especially in built up mixed ethnicity communities, like Birmingham (where the book was set) and areas of London. I would seriously recommend it to any kid above 12 and definitely to all adults!
We Can Be Heroes is out today, published by Egmont UK. Catherine Bruton is visiting my blog on Thursday 4th August to discuss why she wrote about 9/11 so please be sure to visit again! 
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