Billy Hooten is not anyone's idea of a superhero. He's kind of geeky, gets harassed regularly at school, is into comic books, building robots (that don't work), and feels a sickening sense of dread in the pit of his stomach whenever he thinks of gym class. Because of Billy's surname and round glasses, the mean kids at school call him "Owlboy," an irritating nickname...at least until Billy makes an astonishing discovery.
It all begins with a cry for help coming from across the wall that separates Billy's yard from the cemetery. Despite the fact that Billy is rather timid by nature, he can't resist the desperation in the voice. Before he realizes it, he is sprinting across the cemetery, through the door of a crypt, until he finds himself face to face with an enormous, pigheaded creature. The hulking monster is angry, clearly violent, and is coming for him! Is it luck that makes the monster trip and slide and end up in a heap, or is it...destiny?
The frightened goblin who'd been calling for help informs Billy that he is Monstros City's new Owlboy, a superhero who protects the innocent and downtrodden (monster) citizens of the city beneath the cemetery. Billy is naturally dubious - but he can't help being intrigued. Soon he is caught up in a world he never knew existed, pursued by villains more gruesome and vile than he could have imagined. Through it all, he is plagued by doubt - could he possibly be the real Owlboy? Comic book worlds are great and everything, he realizes, as long as they're in comic books. When they are brought to life, however, everything changes.
This is the first book in the Owlboy series, another pick for my library's Summer Reading Program. It is fast-paced and exciting, and what it lacks in character development and plausibility it makes up for in action and adventure. I was never clear why these monsters were in need of a protector any more than the humans up in the "real" world, much less where the city came from, but kids who love superheroes probably won't have a problem with that. I also had difficulty with the depiction of Billy's parents, particularly his mother, who is (conveniently to Billy's plans) moronic beyond belief. However, several intriguing mysteries were set up in this first volume (the disappearance of the previous Owlboy, for one), that will likely lure fans to read subsequent volumes in the series.
Books in the Owlboy series:
1. Billy Hooten: Owlboy
2. Owlboy: The Girl with the Destructo Touch
3. Tremble at the Terror of Zis-Boom-Bah
4. The Flock of Fury (to be published December 2008)
Billy Hooten: Owlboy (#1 in the Owlboy series) by Thomas Sniegoski; illustrated by Eric Powell (Yearling, 2007)
Other blog reviews:
Bookshelves of Doom
Wands and Worlds