“How We Became Intergalactic Space Heroes” by Chris von Halle

I often tell authors that a Table of Contents with creative chapter titles can be one of their best sales drivers. When this book opened with “Chapter One, Joe’s Toenails,” I was intrigued. “Chapter Two, Dana’s Underwear,” sealed the deal.

Full disclosure: eleven- and twelve-year-olds were my favourite grades to teach. These kids are old enough to know all sorts of interesting stuff, and the hormones haven’t taken charge of their lives yet. They are developing a decent sense of humour (underwear jokes aside), and they are just beginning to be fun people.

In this book, Mr. van Halle has nailed them perfectly.

Starting a story with characters in the terminal stages of boredom is difficult to portray without boring the reader, but Joe’s toenails fill that gap perfectly. (And,  incidentally, tie everything neatly together at the end.) The reality of the characters and their quirky personalities carry the story, along with the believable interpersonal relationships.

This is the time of life when boys and girls can be best friends, but there is starting to be a whole new level of relationship looming which is far more interesting than the straightforward sexual tensions of older people’s books.

As far as the plotline is concerned, this is YA Fantasy at its most fantastic. It takes the old “You have been chosen” Sci-Fi plot and pushes it to the extreme. It’s a simple conflict: push this button, save the universe and become a hero. But for all sorts of reasons — some of them even reasonable and character-driven — the button just doesn’t get pushed. Throw in a time loop where they meet their future selves, who aren’t exactly the kind of people you want to turn into, and you have some great discussions around a number of wacky ideas. And, in the end, a decent theme to wrap it all up. Fill the spaces between with scary battles with freaky aliens, and you’ve got a winner.

As you can tell, this review has been aimed at both potential readers and the parents, teachers, and librarians who might be responsible for buying the book. I highly recommend it as a fun read to share with your friends or someone of another generation.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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