Robert Cormier explores the dark side of human nature in many of his novels for teenagers. What makes his treatment of this theme so effective, thought-provoking and, at times, chilling is his belief that evil is often to be found in the most unlikely of places. Consequently, whilst his heroes are often lonely and emotionally vulnerable teenagers, his ‘evil’ characters are either extraordinarily charming or so ordinary as to be almost invisible.
In “Heroes”, Larry LaSalle falls into the former category. His “Fred Astaire” walk and “movie-star smile” are the perfect disguise for hiding his dark secret: his weakness for “sweet young things”.
In a series of flashbacks, Francis Cassavant, the teenage narrator of the novel, tells of how, to the young people of Frenchtown, Larry LaSalle was a “hero”. He not only gave them a place to be themselves when he opened up the Recreation Centre (the Wreck Centre, as they called it) but also gave them a sense of pride in themselves and helped them discover their hidden potential. Even the school bullies were “reformed” under his influence – at least temporarily.
At fifteen, Francis (an orphan living with his uncle) was shy, withdrawn, and unable to speak to Nicole, the girl he had worshipped since she had arrived at his school when they were both thirteen. It was Larry who gave Francis the courage to approach Nicole by encouraging him at table tennis, helping him to become a champion at the sport and thus boosting his confidence.
Nicole and Francis were special to Larry and Larry, in turn, was a hero not just to them but to all the town’s children long before he earned a Silver Star for his heroic actions in the South Pacific during World War II.
However, in the present, the now eighteen-year-old Francis, his face badly disfigured as a result of throwing himself on a grenade apparently in a bid to protect his fellow soldiers, has returned to Frenchtown on a “mission”. That “mission” is to kill Larry LaSalle. With...
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