What does it take to be a hero? Do we actually need a special power, like super human strength? Do we need a band of sidekicks to help us fight the forces of evil? Do we need a cape and shield, to stand out as the beacons of good that we are supposed to be? Or do we simply need to be strong enough to do the right thing? Is it enough to just stand tall, and say our truth even if it hurts, even if it means the path we choose will be lonelier and harder? Or is just being a good guy really what it takes to be a hero?
High school junior, Bryan Dennison wishes he knew, because on a crisp sunny day in October he’s woken up with a hankering to be Superman like you would NOT BELIEVE, and he is at a loss. It is all he can do from tying a damn towel (or RED SHEETS!…Red sheets are the best!) to his neck and leaping off buildings and shit. Is he crazy? He doesn’t think he’s crazy…Even though people are kinda of looking at him funny recently…
Since this is a Young Adult I am not doing a wine pairing, for Bryan and Scott I made a Red Super Powered Smoothie. This drink has a HUGE amount of vitamins, antioxidants, and all kinds of good stuff. It’s a great option for breakfast and I promise a big glass of this will give you so much energy you WILL feel like a super hero!
Back to the story…Bryan is confused, first he wakes up Monday morning, pretty sure he can’t remember something real shitty he did over the weekend…Also he has this REALLY strong desire to start doing good deeds, for like strangers! Not that being nice isn’t a good thing, but Bryan is a jock, top of the totem pole at his school. Him and his friends “rule the school”. Problem is, this apparently just means he’s a total dickish douchebag 99% of the time, and his friends are even worse…What kind of asshole is he anyways? Because tp make matters worse, it seems like part of his daily school activities include being a vicious bully.
Bryan is disgusted with what seems to have been his life until now, he is ashamed of how his friends act, he is frightened of how awful he seems to have been acting. Worst of it all is that the kid who he’s been bullying recently, he has no recollection of him at all. Scott Beckett, little fragile looking kid, just sitting by himself trying to have lunch in peace seems to have been Bryan’s #1 victim. What has he DONE? What is WRONG with him that he can’t remember? What is WRONG with him that he would ever hurt someone like Scott, who clearly couldn’t defend himself against someone his size? According to his friends the kid’s gay…So clearly that meant Bryan and his jerkoff friends took that as a free pass to torment him…He is sick, SICK of the person he has been. Everything in him wants to make ammends, do good, make things right…Be better. BETTER. He needs to do better.
Most of all he has to make things right with Scott, he’s not sure what happened between them, but it must have been bad. Scott looks at him and his eyes are full of hate and pain and SO MUCH disappointment. It hurts Bryan, because he KNOWS deep inside, even if he doesn’t remember it that Scott is someone important…Bryan needs to earn Scott’s forgiveness, he will work as hard as he CAN to show him that he is a different guy. Bryan is changed inside, and even though the world can’t see it yet, he’s going to show them. He’ll be a force of good in his world, his school, at home with his mom. He can change the things he’s broken on the outside, because he has strength now on the inside.
Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi
Easier said than done, but still, Bryan couldn’t be a selfish, lazy guy like he had been anymore. It was hard though, his old jock buddies, they didn’t like the new Bryan. They thought he had lost his mind when he tried to be nice to Scott and his friends. Everyday it got harder and harder to put up with those guys, until he had to break with them, but they didn’t let him go easy. Things with Scott were no picnic either. No matter how hard he tried, it seemed Scott couldn’t fully believe he really had changed. He couldn’t really blame the guy either, because the more he remembered of the kind of guy he had been to Scott, the more he feared he had ruined things with him for good. It was ALL FUCKED UP, no doubt. But he didn’t keep the red sheet around for decorative purposes (Ok maybe sometimes…)! he was gonna be a frigging hero dammit! HE HAD TO BE.
This book had me from the word go. One of the best Young Adult books I’ve read. Bryan’s voice was wonderful. Funny, engaging, so so honest and bright. That kid had me laughing my ass off and crying my eyes out more than once. The premise of the story beyond exceptional. Talk about unique, I loved that we got the flip side of the coin, and saw the world to the eyes of the bully. Even more beyond that we saw it through eyes that could really SEE the hurt he’d done. There was never a sense for me that the author was aiming for incredibly realistic. What I did I feel was that I was being given a scenario that could give me an opportunity for strong introspection about what it really means to be heroic in life.
What would it feel like to wake up one day and be different? What would it feel like to realize that you were not nice or good? To see in the faces of people surprise and confusion when you try to be kind? It would be tough. Bryan didn’t give up though, he went back in everyday and he kept doing good things, doing better than he had until his whole world became different.
There is a lot to say about this book….It goes into the harsh reality of our kids going into schools all around this country, every single day, which for lack of better words, are hostile environments…That we live in a culture where strength and beauty are revered, but daring to be different, or refusing not fall in line to the norm makes the outcasts, makes them targets…The fact that SUCCESS mean popularity or status, but not character or kindness.
So much bad stuff right? Except the tone of this book is incredibly optimistic. It’s hopeful and vibrant. There were moments of pure joy and so much laughter. Romance too, because Bryan was INTO Scott BIG TIME… So many good moments…There was sadness to be sure, because we were on Bryan’s journey and he had a lot to atone for. The thing is Bryan found the good inside him and that made the hard moments bearable and once he began to find people in his life that would hold him up, he could laugh through the tears. Little by little he did the things he felt were right, he was honest with himself and others, he faced his fears, he tried to figure out the reasons why he had been the kind on guy he had. In the end he got to have SO MUCH more than before. He got to be himself, which to his surprise was all he needed to be for the people who loved him.
What can I even say? I LOVED this book. EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. I could probably re-read it right now. If I could I would by a copy and put it under the door of every single one of the 80 19 and 20 year old college kids that I live with.
Bryan is a character that will stay with me long from now…And his song…I think we should all look to find that better part of ourselves, dig for those special things. Because when we do find them and know their worth there will always be good people to share them with.
The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick is availalble here, at Dreamspinner Press.
Red Super Powered Smoothie
Makes 2, 16 oz servings
For the RED:
1 cup of Vanilla Almond Milk
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup of frozen cherries
1/2 cup of frozen strawberries
For the SUPER POWERS:
1 big handful of greens (stemmed kale or baby spinach)
1/2 tablespoon of almond butter
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
1 tablespoon of flax seeds
2 medjool dates pitted
a pinch of cinnamon
Directions: Put all the ingredients in your blender at the highest power setting for about 1 and a half minutes, and enjoy. This smoothie is FANTASTIC as a substitute for breakfast. It is delicious, filling, you will be incredibly energized and won’t think about food all morning. I am certain Bryan would approve!
I hope you give this book a try, it is so far one of my favorites this year, cannot recommend it enough. I plan to share it with all the young people in my life, also give the smoothie a try, it’s AWESOME!
Cheers and Happy Reading!