(Cover picture courtesy of Munro’s Books.)
All Jack Blank knows is his bleak, dreary life at St. Barnaby’s Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost, an orphanage that sinks more and more into the swampland of New Jersey with each passing year. His aptitude tests project him as spending a long, unhappy career as a toilet brush cleaner. His only chance at escape comes through the comic books donated years ago to the orphanage that he secretly reads in the dark corners of the library.
Everything changes one icy gray morning when Jack receives two visitors that alter his life forever. The first is a deadly robot straight out of one of his comic books that tries its best to blow him up. The second is an emissary from a secret country called the Imagine Nation, an astonishing place where all the fantastic and unbelievable things in our world originate – including Jack. Jack soon discovers that he has an amazing ability–one that could make him the savior of the Imagine Nation and the world beyond, or the biggest threat they’ve ever faced.
I had my doubts about this book when my friend lent it to me. The way she described it…well it made me less than enthusiastic, I have to admit. Yet I decided to give The Accidental Hero (first published under the title Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation) a chance. After all, I had been skeptical when the same friend lent me Cinder and it turned out to be amazing.
Matt Myklusch’s novel pokes tongue-in-cheek fun at old superhero tropes while at the same time putting a new spin on them so that young boys (and girls too!) will love it. I’ve only read one comic book in my entire life, but as with most people, I’m familiar with superheroes. I’m a closet fan of the new Batman movies, used to watch the Spiderman cartoons and actually didn’t mind Thor. The Accidental Hero focuses on the adventures of an orphan, Jack Blank, who accidentally discovers his superpowers and is taken away to the Imagine Nation, a constantly moving island of superheroes. Yet from the moment he arrives, things start to go wrong.
I considered Jack a cardboard cutout for the first third of the book, but then I realized the author was poking a bit of fun at old superhero clichés while slowly building a three dimensional character with a great character arc. Jack is a character readers of all ages will love, especially boys, who seem to be woefully neglected in the YA genre.
With a fast-paced plot and amazing world-building, this is the kind of new spin on old clichés I love. Personally, I’m glad I read it and look forward to reading about Jack’s future adventures.
I give this book 5/5 stars.