cover image When Heroes Die

When Heroes Die

Penny Raife Durant. Atheneum Books, $15 (136pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31764-4

Addressing the topics of hero worship, homosexuality and AIDS, this timely first novel shows ambitious intentions, but offers few surprises. Gary, 12, whose chief concerns have had to do with basketball and girls, is shattered by the news that his idol, Uncle Rob, is dying. After a rather drawn-out period of denial the boy, with the help of a compassionate neighbor, is able to confront his disillusionment and accept painful truths about his uncle's lifestyle and illness. The story's too tidy plot and stock characterizations may distract readers from the tragic elements of this scenario. Uncle Rob's emotions are somewhat skirted, and it remains questionable whether or not his death causes significant change within his nephew. Still, this work--along with Patricia Hermes's Be Still My Heart --breaks new ground in dispelling myths about the AIDS epidemic. Durant should be commended for her frank treatment of a difficult, controversial issue. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)