YA – We Can Be Heroes

McCauley, Kyrie. We Can Be Heroes. Katherine Tegen Books, 2021. 978-0-062-88505-0. 368 p. $17.99. Grades 8-12.

The town of Bell is known for one thing – it’s firearms. When the heir to the company goes into his school and shoots his ex-girlfriend Cassie and then himself, the town moves on – just a bit too quickly. Beck, Cassie’s long time friend, is angered that people turned a blind eye to what happened. Beck decides to paint murals in and around the town to bring attention to the tragedy. After the first mural, Cassie (in ghost form) visits Beck in her VW van, determined to find closure. Along with Cassie’s other friend, Vivian, the trio set out to bring Cassie justice with just a touch of vengeance. Planning out the themes of their murals, gathering supplies, and finding the perfect location get harder as more attention is given to the art. Things get a bit complicated when a podcaster hears of the murals and starts investigating Cassie’s murder and the Bell family. But their time is running out as local law enforcement start closing in on who is responsible for the murals that depict Greek myths and the haunting connection to Cassie’s death. 

THOUGHTS: In McCauley’s second novel she chooses various writing styles to complement each character’s story. Cassie’s story is told in verse, Vivian and Beck in prose, and the podcaster in a script style. This was a heartbreaking story to read, but did a beautiful job of bringing attention to gun violence and domestic abuse. 

Realistic Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD
Fantasy (Paranormal)

Tommy: The Gun that Changed America


Blumenthal, Karen.  Tommy: The Gun that Changed America.  New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2015. 978-1-62672-084-8. 232 p.  $19.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

During WWI, John Thompson began developing the Thompson submachine gun in order to assist American soldiers engaged in trench warfare.  Because the war ended before development was complete, however, Thompson and his associates had to find a new market for what became known as the Tommy gun.  They instead promoted the gun as a protective weapon for police, military men, bankers, and other big business owners.  Although sales flyers insisted that the Tommy gun was “on the side of law and order,” the fact that there was little regulation of gun sales meant that Tommy guns soon fell into the hands of gangsters and criminals.  Set during the turbulent 1920s and 1930s, this book is chock-full of photographs and exciting stories about several notorious historical figures, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and J. Edgar Hoover.  An excellent addition to any social studies curriculum, the book includes a thorough bibliography of sources for further research and takes a careful look at the way the Tommy gun impacted society and triggered a debate about gun control that continues today.

600s; Firearms     Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

This book is very well-written and reads more like a thriller, especially during the chapters that focused on famous American gangsters, than nonfiction.  I could see the book appealing to boys looking for a “cops and robbers” story.  It will also appeal to history buffs and gun enthusiasts.  Written in easily accessible language and containing many primary source photographs, this book is well-suited for lower-level and reluctant readers as well.  It is definitely a must-have addition to U.S. history collections!