Cook’s (The Wishbone Express, 2013) novel stars an unlikely teenage hero named Brad, who leads an undercover vigilante justice team called the Bowmen for one memorable high school summer in the 1960s.
Brad loves comic books and dreams of being a superhero, but in high school, he’s anything but. On the last day of school, Clayton Denault steals a comic book Brad had been reading and challenges him to a fight in the parking lot; to his surprise, Brad wins. Thus begins a summer of physical training and heroic activity with the Bowmen. “What I wanted to do,” Brad says, “was streak through the clouds and strike fear into the hearts of villains and make Lois and the girls at the office swoon at the sight of my rippling muscles, so well displayed in my skintight costume of indestructible material.” The beginning of the novel is paced too slowly, until Brad finally brings up the idea of fighting crime after a lot of aimless summer driving and gawking at young women. Once the boys start donning costumes to chase after bad guys, using bows and “sluggers”—a modified arrow “that packs a helluva punch”—for weapons, the pace picks up, though considering the light plot, it still drags in certain scenes. Brad and his team use a police scanner to find trouble and get to the crime scenes before the police; once, their identities protected by their costumes, they even help the police in daylight. Their new hobby gives them more confidence and opportunities to talk to high school girls, an activity previously too intimidating for everyone but Carl, who has a serious girlfriend. The Bowmen rescue some damsels in distress, and Brad starts dating Ann, the daughter of a police officer. What the Bowmen are doing isn’t exactly legal, and later in the book, they have some serious encounters with both real-life criminals and the police, bringing up questions of morality and justice. But the overall tone of Cook’s work tends to be youthful and cartoonish, with a goofy, if played out, sense of humor that might appeal to a YA audience.
A conventional but entertaining novel for teens.