Just Another HeroTitle: Just Another Hero
Author: Sharon M. Draper
ISBN: 9781416907008
Pages: 280 pages
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2009.

“So what makes a person a hero?” asked the teacher.
“He saves the world,” Susan suggested.
“What if he just saves a kid from drowning?” Arielle wondered.
“He’s gotta be strong,” Kofi added.
“Who says it’s gotta be a dude?” asked Dana.
“Women back then just served the wine,and then they served the men,” Cleveland said with a laugh, “like they’re s’posed to do!” Dana threw a notebook at him, but he ducked.
“Can’t a woman be a hero?” Dana asked again.
“Heroine,” November corrected.
“Changing the name makes her sound weaker,” Dana argued. “I think if a lady saves a baby from a burning house, she ought to be called a hero, not a wussy-sounding heroine.”
“Good point,” Mrs. Witherspoon said, encouraging the students to talk. But do you have to save somebody to be a hero?” (98)

The senior class of this Ohio high school could sure use a hero. Arielle has had enough with her stepfather, who is emotionally abusing her and her mother by witholding his love and his money. Kofi has finally recovered from his broken arm, but he still finds himself needing to take the pain meds to navigate the day and his increasing stress about college and home life. November has finally returned after giving birth to her pre-mature child Sunshine. Unfortunately, Eddie is also back after serving some time in juvenille detention. With fire alarms being pulled on almost a weekly basis and personal items being stolen, everyone suspects Eddie is up to his old tricks. But things take a drastic turn when one final fire alarm sounds, and not everyone can leave the building.

Even if you’re like me and haven’t read the first two books in Sharon Draper’s trilogy, you’ll still become engrossed in Just Another Hero and will probably go searching for the two previous novels. She does a phenomenal job presenting the characters so that people unfamiliar with the series get the background information, without tripping over the “introduction chapter” that are so commonly found in series books. While the main climatic moment comes at the tail end of the book, suspects are hinted at throughout the novel. Although I guessed the culprit before the book revealed it, the actions taken to solve the problem were unsuspected. The characters have their own unique problems to deal with, and while some might feel that the solutions are too “and they lived happily ever after,” I for one am glad to see a teen novel that deals with issues in a non-depressing manner. Comparing this to Wintergirls, which I loved so much, it’s like apples to pears. Sure, they might have some similarities, but I like them for totally different reasons. This is only my second exposure to the author (I read Copper Sun last year), and I’m definitely going to be recommending her. I hesitate to label this book “urban fiction” because I’m so unfamiliar with that genre, but I think teens familiar with that genre might enjoy this book/series because of the realism. Boys and girls will enjoy it because of the colorful cast of characters and the alternating emphasis on Kofi and Arielle’s lives, with the primary focus at school.