While most kids would welcome the chance to brag about a father who’s at the president’s beck and call, ready to take on global threats at a moment’s notice, 14-year-old Billy Harriman simply wishes his dad could spend more time with him at their Manhattan high rise, kicking back and watching a Knicks game. Unfortunately, he won’t have that opportunity. At the start of the quick-paced Hero, the latest book for young readers by sportswriter and author Mike Lupica, Billy’s father dies in a mysterious airplane crash.

Still coping with his father’s loss, the eighth grader must also contend with taunting from Spence, basketball rival and school bully. But soon, Billy begins to notice that he’s gaining superhuman strengths and talents, such as the ability to travel long distances in seconds and an enhanced sixth sense. Hoping to make sense of his father’s death, he travels to Long Island, where he meets Mr. Herbert, a strange old man who claims to have known his father and his true identity. Shocked to discover that his father was a real superhero and that he may become one too, Billy has no time to spare as “the Bads” begin following him and threatening his friends and family.

Every superhero needs a female to rescue, and Billy is no exception. While his best friend, Kate, is gifted in intelligence and reasoning, Billy suddenly finds his new powers especially handy when she’s threatened by the Bads. She also helps him figure out whom to trust now that his world is filled with constant peril.

Lupica includes plenty of sports references in this exciting tale, as well as numerous nods to Superman, Spiderman, Star Wars and other superheroes and pop culture fighters. Billy’s desire to live up to his new persona and unanswered questions about his father’s background beg for a sequel to this story for any boy who’s ever wished to be a hero—and who hasn’t?

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