We Could Be Heroes

S. & S./ Atheneum. Feb. 2020. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534445253.
Gr 4-6–Ten-year-old Hank Hudson is used to spending time alone, preferring his extensive rock collection to the company of people. He’s surprised and excited when Maisy Huang, the new girl at school, invites him over to her house, only to become demonstratively distraught when she tries to convince him to steal Booler, her neighbor’s epileptic dog. Hank has autism and is easily overwhelmed when his routine is disrupted. Maisy is unrelenting in pursuing Hank’s friendship while convincing him that her neighbor does not deserve Booler, who is tied up outside because he has seizures. Her antics to free Booler lead the two into some unusual situations that ultimately strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding between these very different children. Finnegan uses a third-person limited point of view, offering the reader insight into Hank’s thoughts and feelings, and viewing Maisy solely from his perspective. Read through this narrative lens, Maisy initially comes across as an unsympathetic character. As Hank’s understanding of her deepens, so does the reader’s understanding of the complexity of her character. Things aren’t always amicable between the two, and their frequent conflict occasionally feels redundant in illustrating the difficulties of their relationship. Finnegan’s choice to narrate from Hank’s perspective gives readers insight into the experiences of a young person with autism.
VERDICT This touching, often humorous debut addresses both autism and epilepsy without making them an overwhelming theme. An excellent choice for a classroom read-aloud.

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