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NOT ALL HEROES by Josephine Cameron Kirkus Star


by Josephine Cameron

Pub Date: May 18th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-374-31443-9
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Young people engage with social change in coastal Maine.

Still healing from the death of 7-year-old Wally, the Helinski family is slowly settling into life in Port City, Maine, after leaving Wisconsin in search of a fresh start. Sixth grader Zinnia struggles to find her place in her new school, wanting to befriend cool, nice girls like Jade and Anji but dogged at every step by Trevor, who shows his affection by relentlessly teasing her. But when the Anand family moves in upstairs, Zinnia discovers that they are part of a community of Real-Life Superheroes, “shining a light” on social problems and bringing “help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless.” Zinnia’s 19-year-old Aunt Willow, also struggling to find herself, comes to visit and joins them on their missions to provide food, shelter, and care, all while dressed in attention-grabbing superhero costumes. With its clear, accessible writing, this suspenseful story masterfully juggles many topics: grief; self-assurance; the need for individual, collective, and systemic approaches to ableism, poverty, and other social ills; and the fine line between “extreme altruism” and self-aggrandizement. Never preachy, the story includes a suspenseful and satisfying climax involving a ring of coffee shop thieves, with every thread satisfyingly resolved. Zinnia and her family are White; the multiracial supporting cast is well developed.

A perfect balance of morally complex and extremely fun.

(Fiction. 8-13)