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Heroes by Robert Cormier
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Heroes (1998)

by Robert Cormier

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For those of us who have never known war, there's something chilling about the post-war experience of those who have. For all the bullet-dodging action heroes that Hollywood produces and America consumes, we rarely get a taste for the horrors that the scarred veteran must face upon return to the home-front. Even when a movie does try to convey that horror, it remains a visual experience.

Robert Cormier's "Heroes" has no such problems. Francis, Cormier's young protagonist, has been marred by war, and in the most visceral way. He's lost his face to a grenade. He is unrecognizable, even by those who knew him well, and though cited for bravery, he hides a secret. As we read, we soon learn that he is not the only one. Unlike the gloss and gleam of Hollywood flicks, we are ensconced in Francis' head, fully exposed to his pain and guilt, his regrets and hopes. It's almost too close, and as the novel moves towards a final crushing denouement, we sense as much as we read, guessing and knowing the horrible truth before Cormier lets his protagonist reveal the chilling and even disturbing truth.

"Heroes" develops fast, and it is perhaps the parsimony of words that provides his story with such careful and pointed impact. Each word, section, and anecdote is calculated to one purpose only: the building of a story about a hero, and not just any, but one who is anything but what he seems.

I recommend the read, but because of content (nothing gratuitous or graphic, but merely the subject matter) suggest it for adolescents in their teens. I look forward to reading and discussing with my own children. ( )
  publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
Robert Cormier wrote [b:I Am the Cheese|48974|I Am the Cheese|Robert Cormier|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1170356988s/48974.jpg|958210], which will forever be burned in my brain as it was a question at pub trivia that I got incorrect a few months back. As such, I made it a personal goal to read several of his books in the next year or two because 1. I hate getting questions wrong in pub trivia; 2. His books are supposed to be twisty and well-written (some are required in many high school curricula); and 3. Most importantly to me, they are very short. I immediately put Heroes on hold at the library when I read its blurb:

Francis Joseph Cassavant is eighteen. He has just returned home from the Second World War, and he has no face. He does have a gun and a mission: to murder his childhood hero.

Imagine you are sitting in a room with me right now. Now go ahead and look into my eyes and tell me that if you read a blurb about a soldier with no face coming back to his hometown to murder someone, you wouldn't be interested in picking the book up. You're a liar, that's jacket copy at its best. I am very confused about what this soldier looks like from the cover. Does the background image look like a woman to anyone else? Maybe it's the bangs? There is somehow a ton and yet nothing going on in this story. I don't want to ruin the motive behind his revenge plot but I will say that this book just feels bleak. I felt horrible that a naive kid joined the army, was seriously injured, and then returns to a town that's forgotten him, filled with other physically and mentally injured vets, and devoid of hope. Francis covers his entire face for the entirety so I never got a full idea of what he might look like but Cormier didn't play it down at all, instead (perhaps overly) mentioning the oozing crevices of Francis' face where his features used to be and the soaked-through bandages that filled with blood and pus. Heroes reads like a short story. It is a quick sketch of what one soldier's reasons were for joining the forces and how failing to act can haunt a person forever. In my opinion, the only reason to read this is the story. Those looking to get quotable quotes or flowery prose should just move along.

This mini-review was part of a series of 7 mini-reviews of short YA books I wrote for a post over at our blog, The Readventurer.

( )
  FlanneryAC | Mar 31, 2013 |
Francis Joseph Casavant just came back from a war where he fell face first on a grenade. They thought he was trying to protect his “team”. So now he’s back in his home town with no friends, no home, and no face. Although he does have a purpose in the town-to kill his childhood role model, Larry LaSalle.Francis wants to murder Larry because of what he did to his childhood love.
Lets start from the beginning, when Francis was young boy, his town had just built a new building. The kids called it the “Wreck center”, and that is where they went everyday. The “Wreck center” had something that everyone enjoyed. If you didn't like dancing you could do ping pong, if you didn’t like ping pong you could do dodgeball or something else. In Francis’ case it was ping pong. For his love, Nicole Renard, it was dancing. So, right before Larry LaSalle went to war, they competed in the activities they played in. Then Larry LaSalle was off to war.
One day, when they were older, Larry came back and threw a party back at the “Wreck center”. At the end everyone had left except Francis and Nicole. Larry asks Francis to leave so he can have one last dance with Nicole. But instead of dancing he beats her up, and Francis was outside the whole time listening. Once the music stops, Nicole comes out and sees him there. She asks why he didn't protect her. Francis can't forgive himself so he forges his birth certificate and goes to war hoping to die, that is why he fell on the grenade. But it didn't work and he’s back home to finish his mission, but when he finds his “victim” his visit ends with a little twist.
Heroes was a well thought out book. It was also very unexpected. Robert Cormier does an excellent job keeping me interested in it and actually enjoying it. In Heroes it is very unusual how the main character wants to kill himself. I thought it was very interesting, and although it is a bad thing to want to kill yourself it kept the book very fast-paced. and I felt an emotional connection to Francis’ pain.
Although Heroes was a good book, I also read Chocolate Wars book by the same author, Robert Cormier, and disliked it very much. I think I didn't like it that much because in Heroes it was from one persons point of view while in his other book it was a variety of people narrating. Heroes was also better because unlike Chocolate Wars it had short, descriptive and action packed chapters. Heroes is definitely a must read. ( )
  br13almu | Sep 16, 2012 |
Francis Joseph Cassavant, an eighteen year-old World War II veteran, came home from the war without a face. While he was serving in France, a grenade blew off his face. Francis received the Silver Star for bravery after the war. He eventually journeyed home to Frenchtown in Monument. He realized, however, that his journey was not yet finished. He wanted to find a man. This was a man who he once admired and praised, but this man had also destroyed Francis’s life.
This book, Heroes, was enjoyable to read because I loved the mystery of finding out what had happen between Francis and his childhood hero. It was also entertaining that author, Robert Cormier, left you hanging and with questions at the end of the story. Reading about this character’s experience, made me wonder how it would be to have to live without a face. The mood of this book is definitely dark and gloomy. I would have liked this book to be longer. I wanted it to go into more details about what followed the incident at of the story. This book is different from any of the other books that I’ve read. I am not usually fond of books with heavy topics. However, this one got me hooked. I have never read a book similar to Heroes, but I would certainly enjoy reading another book with this genre of fiction. Overall, I would rate this book a four out of five stars.
  br13alma | Sep 14, 2012 |
Interesting story although i had trouble making out where it was actually set. It could have been France, Canada or America, I just didn't know. ( )
  wrichard | Mar 7, 2011 |
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To Chris Kloet, with thanks
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My name is Francis Joseph Cassavant and I have just returned to Frenchtown in Monument and the war is over and I have no face.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440227690, Mass Market Paperback)

Eighteen-year-old Francis Cassavant has returned from World War II an unwilling hero. Although he can still see and hear, a grenade has blown away his nose, his ears, his teeth, and his cheeks, leaving him faceless. Hiding his ghastly wounds with bandages and a white silk scarf, Francis welcomes the anonymity his mutilation brings him, for he has returned to his hometown with a secret mission--a plot for revenge (against his enemy Larry LaSalle) that he values more than his own life. Francis's eerily matter-of-fact acceptance of his hideous mien, along with his sweetness and selflessness, contrast sharply with his obsessive need for vengeance. No one recognizes him as the quiet kid who once loved Nicole Renard and hung out with fellow teens at the Wreck Center. LaSalle, formerly a charismatic youth leader, has also come back from the war a hero, and only Francis knows the dark side of this older man's concern for young people. But does LaSalle's one evil act wipe out all the good he has done? And is Francis just as guilty because he could have prevented it and didn't?

Robert Cormier--winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award and many other honors--has once again crafted a riveting yarn of psychological suspense. Francis's story is revealed only gradually in hints that keep the reader guessing. Young teens will find it a quick and absorbing read, and older adolescents (and full-fledged adults, too) will relish pondering the many-sided ethical questions Cormier raises about heroism, guilt, and forgiveness. (Ages 13 to 16) --Patty Campbell

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:32 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

After joining the army at fifteen and having his face blown away by a grenade in a battle in France, Francis returns home to Frenchtown hoping to find--and kill--the former childhood hero he feels betrayed him.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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