Monday 5 September 2011

The Invisible Hero

The Invisible Hero by Elizabeth Fensham (UQP)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9780702238901
Reviewed by Jo Burnell

The Year 9 English and History teachers team up to create a major project with a difference. One Man’s Hero is another’s Villain. Find a hero or villain in history. Look into their actions and motives and explain whether they are a hero or villain to you.

The Invisible Hero is made entirely of student diary entries. Power struggles that pulsate  in the school grounds permeate journal entries. Some students are high achievers with very specific ambitions. Others do the bare minimum to pass, making quick exits to Facebook. Phillip is dyslexic, so his actual entries fill the left page while plain English translations are provided on the right.

The Invisible Hero is a rollercoaster. Conflict and stark contrasts arise at every turn. Even the teachers don’t see eye to eye. One is a merciless bully, the other deeply concerned about all of her charges. Phillip’s struggle to find a place in his world is just one of the major dramas embedded between the pages. No one is going to come out of this class unchanged, but the revelations are not all positive.

The piecemeal nature of diary entries left me hungry for more. My favourite characters had a nasty habit of writing less than I would have liked. Quirky facts about weird people in history was the glue that held The Invisible Hero  together. Who would be perverse enough to murder people to sell their bodies for medical research? What about the bloke who bought the bodies?  Were they considered heroes or villains in their time?

How does that help me understand the good guy that everyone likes who persecutes a select few? The issue of relative good and evil also emerges. One man’s idea of evil can be justified by another as good.

Be warned. I couldn’t put The Invisible Hero down. It got under my skin like an itch that wouldn’t go away until the story was resolved.

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