We Can Be Heroes compellingly addresses domestic abuse, misogyny, and gun rights, bringing in Greek myths and magical realism.
We Can Be Heroes has fantastic movement to it. It follows Beck and Vivian, Cassandra’s two best friends who are still reeling from her death. They think everyone has forgotten about her, has brushed her under death under the rug. So, they have decided to paint murals around the town, depicting Cassandra as a Greek heroine from Greek mythology.
I love the take McCauley has taken with her Greek mythology. There seems to be a trend in literature right now, one I applaud, that gives agency back to women of Greek mythology. They are retelling tales of Cassandra, Circe, Helen, Medusa, and Ariadne through artwork, highlighting how the women have been diminished, forgotten, or called monsters for their power.
McCauley also did a fabulous job of breaking up the story’s pacing with poetry by Cassandra. Cassandra is a ghost, living in the back seat of Beck’s car, and together the girls are on a mission to bring awareness to Cassandra’s murder.
Then there are the podcast segments that break up the story. The podcast is more investigative, offering a different tone for the reader, which still highlights the story’s message. It adds to the depth of the narrative, building up this incredible, compelling, and thoughtful message about domestic abuse and the deaths that result from it.
First and foremost, We Can Be Heroes talks about domestic abuse. Cassandra Queen was murdered in a school shooting when her ex-boyfriend took his father’s gun and shot her. No one took her seriously because she was a young woman, and the boy in question was the heir to the town’s bread and butter. He was the golden boy; he could do no wrong.
We Can Be Heroes analyzes domestic abuse and the high risks of death with a gun in the house. According to the NCADV, “The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.” Cassandra became a part of that statistic the day her boyfriend killed her then himself at school with a gun.
This is a difficult review for me to write because I consider the topic incredibly important, so staying focused on the story and not the facts will be a little challenging. However, those facts are essential and need to be discussed. McCauley cites many of these facts through the podcast she created in the novel. She is bringing to life domestic violence and the deaths that result from it.
Much like in the story, the news focuses on the men who created the crime instead of the victim. They even call it Romeo and Juliet, which, while wrong (they each committed suicide, not murder-suicide), again romanticizes the violence, throwing the victim to the wind.
It is a powerful and emotional story, tracking Cassandra’s steps until she died. She did everything right by leaving her abuser and seeking out the law. However, she was failed when no one took her seriously when they decided to play it off as teen drama when they diminished Cassandra’s plight and minimized her pain.
More importantly, it is unfortunate how realistic this is, how victims are not taken seriously, how their pain is diminished, how they are criminalized. Moreover, through this narrative, we see how that needs to stop, how victims need to be taken seriously regardless of age.
We Can Be Heroes is simply a fantastic novel. The message drives home this powerful message; it is emotional, thoughtful, compelling, unique, and insightful.
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|Pub Date: September 7, 2021||Page Count: 368pp||Age Range: 13 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-0-0628-8505-0||Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books||List Price: $17.99|
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