Monday, 15 August 2011

Book Review: We Can be Heroes by Catherine Bruton.

Product details:
Publisher: Egmont Books Ltd
Paperback, 400 pages.
Release date: August 1st 2011.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 11+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

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...

A timely portrait of friendship, family and loss in the modern world, Catherine Bruton’s We Can be Heroes is a touching coming of age tale depicting a summer in the life of Ben, a sensitive twelve year old boy who lost his father in the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.

We meet Ben as he arrives at his Grandparents house where he will spend the summer along with his cousin Jed, a troubled boy who has a lot of family issues to deal with.  In contrast to Jed who is often rude and boisterous, Ben is a quiet boy; he spends hours drawing comic book heroes, lost in a world of his own.  The two boys soon make friends with Priti, a wonderfully entertaining Muslim girl whose family has just moved into the area.  The three are soon spending all their time together, but their mischief takes a dark turn when they stumble upon some radio equipment in Priti’s older brother’s room.  Jed soon decides that Shakeel is a terrorist because ‘everyone knows that a Muslim tinkering about in his bedroom with home-made electronics is dodgy’.   It’s a sentence which Jed doesn’t think twice about saying, but it’s a sad indication of how a parent’s prejudice has been passed along to his child, and has begun to shape his world view. Priti, to her credit, is unperturbed by this, as only an innocent child can be, and even somewhat delights in the fact that her brothers, if not her whole family, might be part of a terrorist cell.  Well, uncovering a bomb plot sure beats hanging out in the park every day!  So begins a summer of espionage for the three children in which they end up discovering a whole lot more than they bargained for!

Although the story here is told through Ben’s eyes, this book is not simply the story of a boy growing up without a dad and all the problems that might bring. Rather, Bruton examines the personal and societal consequences of September 11th.  How the terrorist attacks affected families, and in some cases tore them apart, and how we, as a society, behave differently now.  As a book which references Osama Bin Laden as still living, We Can be Heroes is also a book that is a great example of our ever changing world and of how events that often occur in the blink of an eye can change things forever.  It is a testament to Bruton’s writing that she writes about such complex issues as terrorism, racial prejudices and riots and makes them wholly accessible to the 11+ age group she is writing for.  We Can be Heroes is both entertaining and educational and is well worth a read.


  1. I love that this deals with such a complex event and its repercussions in a way that is accessible for younger readers but will certainly affect older readers as well. Lovely review Leanna!

  2. Love the review! Sounds really intriguing with the use of a real life event. Though I have feeling I may cry.

  3. Fab review. A very thought provoking book I found.

  4. I haven't heard much about this book, but it sounds like quite an emotional read! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the review.

  5. From the look of the cover I had something different in mind. It sounds tough, just not my cup of tea. But I do love that it's educational.

  6. This is the first I have heard of this book. Sounds like such a powerful and important story. Great review :)


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