Book Review: The Last American Hero by Nicole Field
I feel like I need to add an extra disclaimer to my review on this book; beside my usual that I picked up this book off ReadingAlley for review and that this is my honest opinion, I feel that I should say that I am neither trans nor asexual, and that therefore I am not qualified to comment about how accurately, or otherwise, the story represents persons from those communities.
Yes, The Last American Hero is a story about a trans superhero, but make no mistake, there are two major protagonists in this book. Bruce, the sidekick who doesn't want to be a sidekick, is asexual but not aromantic, and there is a non-sexual romantic relationship explored in the book. As far as I can tell, this is handled delicately and with open honesty.
While I'm not really qualified to comment on those issues, I DO think I'm qualified to comment on superhero stories. I'm a major Marvel fangirl (#TeamLeaveWandaAlone) and a writer of fanfiction which, if I do say so myself, is pretty popular in the Marvel-centric parts of Tumblr and Ao3.
And this is where this book falls down a bit, for me, because it's not really a superhero story. That part of the story is sort of the side plot and frankly feels tagged on to the gender and sexuality exploration themes of the rest of the book.
It's a book that can't quite decide what it wants to be; having spent a lot of time on Tumblr and seen some of the more extreme social activism on the site, it feels like the author wrote a story and then asked Tumblr to beta-read it for political correctness. Which they did, but unfortunately they managed to take all the fun out of it at the same time. It reads like a story written by the Morality Police to teach people How To Behave In A Socially Acceptable Way Towards Minorities. And in doing so, it comes across as really heavy-handed.
And incidentally, for a book that's so keen on representation? Not one character clearly described as a person of colour, AND it fails to pass the Bechdel test.
Superheroes are supposed to be fun, they are supposed to deliver snappy one-liners while saving the world and their love interest at the same time. All The Last American Hero manages to deliver is a heavy load of angst and as such it was more Batman vs. Superman than The Avengers. If BvS was your jam, more power to you, but as I said before, I'm a Marvel fangirl.
I didn't hate it, and it's good to see better representation of minority genders and sexualities in ANY fiction. Even so, I can't give it more than three stars because I didn't really enjoy it either.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through ReadingAlley.