A neighborhood superhero discovers that great risk brings great rewards.
The Masked Avenger derives his powers from the energies of certain rocks and minerals, illustrations of which are laid out in scrapbook pages along with maps and images of handwritten notes. He regularly sheds his daytime disguise as white, 12-year-old Liam, dons a homemade costume, and steals out into the night with Richie the Powerbeagle at his side to right wrongs on his block. When loud arguments and slamming doors in one house signal a problem tougher to tackle than the odd misplaced rubbish bin, he determines that only amber, with its unique ability to drive out unhappiness with positive energy, will serve…and so he takes a family heirloom from the “sleeping giant” in his own house to confer on his troubled neighbor. His single mom’s distraught reaction to the amulet’s disappearance leaves him writhing on the horns of an ethical dilemma but also leads to a long and revelatory conversation with the neighbor about life choices and how people can fall out of love. The narrator adopts a portentous voice, the present-tense, third-person text fully invested in the Masked Avenger’s persona. As a character the Masked Avenger is thoroughly beguiling, but the central themes treated here seem more in keeping with adult concerns than those of his preteen peers.
Courage and imagination both shine out in this short tale from a Printz Honor winner, even if they are shadowed by audience issues. (Fiction. 10-12, adult)