Hero Maker by Tom Starace is a Fall Into These Great Reads pick #yalit #youngadult #paranormal
Title: HERO MAKER
Author: TOM STARACE
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
ADAM is 16 years old and lives on an apple farm. He has a big family, lots of friends, and is normal in every way. Except one.
JIMMY is 15 and new in town. He lives with his father, has no friends, and no memory of the tragedy that killed his mother.
KIP is a 7-year-old boy who lives in secret with his brother. Nobody knows he’s there. But now his brother has disappeared
VALERIE is a shy girl who is used to being mocked and bullied by the mean girls. And now they have played the meanest trick yet.
Jimmy, Kip, and Valerie have one thing in common—they meet Adam, and their lives are changed forever.
For as long as he can remember, Adam has been haunted by dreams that leave him exhausted and confused. When the memory of a long-forgotten experience comes back to him, tying him to a boy named Jamie and his perilous escape from fire, Adam’s reaction is dramatic and immediate. He faints.
An adventure story told with humor and heart, HERO MAKER is a tale of courage, friendship, decency, and the true meaning of being a hero.
I never talked about the dreams. I tried not to think about them. They scared me, and I thought if I talked about them, they would seem more real—and more scary. Nobody else I knew walked around in broad daylight talking about intense, terrifying dreams. So, I kept them to myself. They were my secret.
Until that day last fall, when everything changed.
“No more calls, we have a winner!” Chris announced, holding up a crumpled newspaper page. “This one is nine years old.”
I laughed. “The hoarder lady.”
My cousin, Chris, and I were unpacking boxes in our family’s store. It was late October, just before Halloween. There were baskets of apples on the tables outside and rows of pumpkins stacked on bales of hay. A scarecrow, right out of The Wizard of Oz, hung over the whole thing.
The carton of apricot preserves Chris was un-packing was from Mrs. Bangeman, an old lady from Schenectady who’s been jarring preserves before any of us were born. She always packed her boxes with layers of old newspapers—sometimes really old ones.
“She’s not a hoarder,” said Aunt Rose, Chris’s mother. “She has a perfectly nice, clean house. She saves the newspapers so she doesn’t have to use plastic bubblewrap. She wants to be green.”
“She’s the Green Hoarder,” said Chris. He laughed at his own joke.
Aunt Rose rolled her eyes. “You guys,” she said, going outside to wait on some customers.
Chris looked down at the paper and started reading it. He hooked a lock of black hair behind his ears.
“Oh, wow,” he muttered. “No way!” He held out the page for me to see. “Dude, look at this.”
I looked at the article. There was a blurry photo of a little boy crouched on a window ledge outside a burning building. I read the headline:
TWO DEAD IN TENEMENT BLAZE
Boy, 6, Saved in Dramatic Rescue
Blood rushed to my face and I suddenly felt hot and sweaty. The memory was like a sleeping monster waking up on the ocean floor.
I saw black spots in front of my eyes. I felt my legs fold under me, my head hit the wall and my butt hit the floor.
The room was gradually coming back into focus. I felt myself returning from whatever dark, scary place I’d been, to the familiar world of my family’s store, with its smell of apples and donuts and coffee.
“Adam?” Aunt Rose was bent over me. There seemed to be two of her. “You with us, there, sweetie?” they asked.
“Dude, you fainted!” said the two Chrises behind her.
“I’m okay,” I said, trying to get my eyes to focus. “How long was I . . .”
“Just a minute or two,” said Aunt Rose.
“I never saw anybody faint before, except in cartoons and stuff,” Chris said. “I mean, we’re looking at the newspaper article and all of a sudden you’re on the floor and I’m like what?”
“What article?” asked Aunt Rose. Chris held up the newspaper page.
Aunt Rose read the headline, and her lips twitched.
I tried to sit up. I felt like somebody had rolled over me with a tractor. “Whoa,” I moaned, “big head rush.”
The back of my head was throbbing, and I touched it with my fingers. Ow. “I’m okay,” I repeated.
“Chris, get Adam some water,” Aunt Rose said.
Chris went to fetch the water.
I said, “Really, Aunt Rose . . . I’m okay.”
“Something in particular make you feel faint, Adam?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I said, even though I knew what it was.
Chris returned with a glass of water and squatted down next to me.
“You went down like a ton of bricks!” he said. “I expected to see birds flying around your head—you know, like in the cartoons? Tweet, tweet, tweet . . .”
“Chris,” Aunt Rose said, “there are customers outside. Go help them, okay?”
“I’m on it, Rose,” said Chris, bouncing up and out the door.
The door stayed open long enough for us to hear him say, “Afternoon, ladies,” to two teenage girls looking at pumpkins.
“When did he start calling me Rose?” Aunt Rose said to nobody in particular.
In front of our store is a roadside stand where we sell fresh fruits and vegetables. In the fall we have pumpkins, and then after that, Christmas trees. In the indoor store we sell pies and donuts and sandwiches. We also sell jams, jellies, candles, and soap, all made by local people.
Everybody in the area knows our farm, Decker’s Apple Orchard, in Fiddler’s Bridge, New York. It’s been around since 1954. People call us the Apple Family. They call Chris and me the Apple Brothers, even though we’re just cousins. And they call me Adam Apple, which everybody thinks is a big funny joke.
Aunt Rose said, “Can you stand up, Adam?”
She held my hand as I raised myself to my feet and settled on a stool. She was still holding the newspaper.
“How’s your head?”
“Hurts a little.” Actually, it hurt like hell.
She bent my head forward to look. “There’s a bump coming up,” she said.
She looked out the window at Chris, who was now helping the girls to their car with two very large pumpkins.
“Feeling a little better now?” she said softly.
She leaned in, lowering her voice even more. “Anything else you want to tell me?”
I just shook my head.
“Okay, Adam. If you change your mind, just let me know.”
This was a weird thing for her to say. But I didn’t get the chance to ask her what she meant, because the door opened and in came Chris, saying, “Hey, how’s the patient?”
Which is pretty much what I felt like at that point.
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What’s your favorite thing about autumn:
I think it’s the smell. After the hot summer, the first days of cooler weather have a new smell. The dampness of the falling leaves, the breeze in your face, and suddenly the world smells different.
My book, Hero Maker, is set on an apple farm in New York State, in a countryside full of pumpkins and apples and trees in their fall colors. The beauty of the natural surroundings offers a sharp contrast with Adam’s nightly adventures with danger, fear, and the “dark side” of humanity.
What inspired you to write this story:
I wanted to write about an extended family, with cousins and uncles and grandparents, all living in a big house in the country. This, I think, was a childhood fantasy of mine.
Also, I was interested in the idea of a long-ago tragedy that has been forgotten or covered over, but suddenly reappears, causing problems for somebody.
In addition, I wanted to write about a real-life hero, somebody who can’t fly and doesn’t wear a cape, but is a hero nonetheless.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs September 1 – 30
Drawing will be held on October 3.
I am a writer, an artist, an actor, and a musician. I worked for most major publishing companies as a designer or art director. I’ve illustrated six children’s books. This is his first novel.
I live in New York State’s Hudson Valley, not too far from where Adam lives. I play banjo, write and design books, paint pictures of clouds, and act in my local theater group.
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