Like a Hero by Michael J. Bowler

four stars

After their parents die in a tragic car accident, Vincent and his younger brother, Dennis, struggle to find ways to take their minds off of the cards they’ve been dealt. Then Dennis has the idea to create a superhero to finish his dad’s work, which, as a police officer, was to keep the streets and citizens of Los Angeles safe. By day, Vincent works at UCLA in a lab, studying various dangerous drugs and trying to support himself and his younger brother, Dennis. By night, while Dennis is home manning the police scanner, he becomes Invictus, donning a mask and cape and taking to the streets to fight bad guys and help people. When Invictus starts spending more time with two boys who live heartbreakingly tough lives on the streets, Dennis decides to help out in the only way he sees possible—by joining a gang that sells a super-drug that destroys brain cells at a rate that’s 100,000 times faster than that of a normal drug. Dennis hopes he’ll be able to glean information to help his brother shut down the operation, but what he doesn’t realize is that the gang has other plans for him that might cut his mission…short. Will Invictus be able to stop the gang from irrevocably harming the citizens of Los Angeles? Will Invictus be able to save his brother, or even himself?

Like a Hero‘s quick pace and complex characters keep the reader on their toes and begging for more. Michael J. Bowler weaves a compelling story that is highlighted by its diverse characters from different backgrounds, although at times the characters’ lifestyles seemed a little too mature for a young adult audience. And even though the dialogue felt stilted at times, the characters felt alive. At first glance, Like a Hero is a riveting narrative about a superhero fighting to make his beloved city a better place. But it’s even more than a good story. Like a Hero is a call to society to be better and to sacrifice themselves in order to help others—a message that anyone, not just young adults, should listen to closely.