Young Adult Novels by Norma Howe
Author of Novels and Stories for Young Adults

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The Adventures of Blue Avenger

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Editor: Marc Aronson

Adventures of Blue Avenger
Henry Holt and Company
Blue Avenger Paperback

Book Description:

Does free will really exist? Do we actually have choices in this life?...or is our every thought and action a necessary result of the physical laws of the universe?

Those are big questions to discuss in a young-adult novel, but they are only a small part of what Norma Howe tackles in The Adventures of Blue Avenger. How did a normal sixteen-year-old boy become the hero of his own comic strip, fall in love with a girl named Omaha Nebraska Brown, and invent a recipe for perfect dripless lemon meringue pie? What does this have to do with the sixteenth-century heretic Giordano Bruno? How can we end the plague of handgun violence in America? A thought-provoking combination of humor, philosophy, and romance, The Adventures of Blue Avenger has something for every teenage reader (and even for a few smart adults).


Kirkus Reviews Star"Pointer Review" - January 15, 1999
In a funny, warmly romantic tale from Howe (Shoot for the Moon, 1992, etc.) an impulsive decision leads an average teenager into fulfilling his desire to be "Secret champion of the underdog, modest seeker of truth, fearless innovator of the unknown."
David, after announcing on his 16th birthday that he's officially naming himself after a comic book hero, is catapulted into a string of situations requiring quick, clever action, from a killer bee attack on the principal to the impending demise of the privately funded school newspaper due to a certain very explicit illustration showing how to don a condom. Meanwhile, discovering in himself a new streak of boldness, David--now Blue--connects with Omaha Nebraska Brown, a soul mate capable both of cogently arguing determinism vs. free will and delivering knee-buckling kisses. Howe sweeps her smart, wide-open characters through an irresistible tumble of twists and coincidences, Big Ideas, and unanswerable questions, pausing for an occasional set piece before ingeniously furnishing a grand climax; having already achieved national fame, both for his principal's rescue and for solving the "weeping meringue" problem (his recipe for "Blue Avenger's Weepless Wonder Lemon Meringue Pie" is included), Blue reaches higher glory still by introducing the city council to a new gun control measure. It's unabashed, cockle-warming wish fulfillment in a novel that has priceless moments and is the perfect respite from all the bleak YA fiction out there.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Star"Starred Review"
March, 1999
Review used by express permission.
David Schumacher and Omaha Nebraska Brown could easily have been rendered as bitter and confused as other YA protagonists by the death and desertion of their respective fathers; instead, the pair turn philosophical and engage in a mutual and lively inquiry into whether anyone is in control of his or her own life. Kindred spirits romantically attracted to each other from their first encounter, David worships the ground Omaha treads, and she find nothing the least disconcerting in David's abrupt decision to change his name to Blue Avenger and follow (or pursue?) his destiny as a small-time superhero. While they search for some Ultimate Answer, Howe engages readers in their quest by depicting seven seemingly unrelated events in places as disparate as Austin, Texas and the "hidden fault" line under Los Angeles and tracing how these events converge in the friends' lives. And converge they do, empowering Blue Avenger to save the school principal from killer bees, bring his friend Mike's acne under control, resolve a school newspaper controversy over an article on condoms, invent a "weepless" lemon meringue pie, and establish an equitable gun control policy in Oakland, California. As to the overriding conundrum of self-determinism vs. destiny--Howe cleverly leaves her answer in suspension as Blue turns in for the night on the final page. This is at once ingeniously plotted and howlingly funny, and even readers who'd never be caught dead in the Dewey 100s may find themselves looking over their shoulder to see if Fate is dogging their steps. EB

School Library Journal Star"Starred Review" - April, 1999
Gr 7 Up -This book is funny, tender, a bit manic, and thoroughly entertaining. When his father died, David Schumacher, Oakland resident and all-around nice guy, invented his cartoon alter ego to be the "secret champion of the underdog, modest seeker of truth, fearless innovator of the unknown." On his 16th birthday, he decides to actually become "Blue Avenger" (his little brother having pointed out the silliness of having "The" for a first name) and finds undreamed of success helping others. Blue spends much time contemplating the question of fate vs. free will, and is also concerned about handgun control, universal health care, and perfecting a weepless lemon meringue pie (recipe included). He takes pains to avoid the use of profane language, substituting comic-book symbols such as "*#%." However, his banter with his brother includes calling him a "bastard tool of destiny," and there is a description of his English class working with their well-liked teacher to parse the word "shit." Just as the novel's stylistic extravagances begin to wear a bit, Blue starts to hit it off with the new girl at school. Thereafter by turn clever, contrived, and comic, the seemingly unrelated plot elements are dizzily whizzed together. Older teens will more fully appreciate the subtlety of much of the humor. The satisfying if open-ended conclusion is, as the Beatles sang, "guaranteed to raise a smile." It's likely to be a wistful smile, however, as appreciative readers will eagerly await the next installment of Blue Avenger's remarkable adventures.
Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA

Publishers Weekly Star"Starred Review" - March 29, 1999
David Bruce Schumacher has been drawing comic books featuring a superhero for three years, but on his 16th birthday he decides that it's high time that someone actually do something about the world's problems. Accordingly, he dons his late father's fishing vest, puts a towel on his head, à la Lawrence of Arabia, and renames himself Blue Avenger after his creation ("The" is a lousy first name, he decides). Almost instantly the skinny redhead becomes a hero, first by saving the high school principal from killer bees, then by secretly arranging treatment for an acne-ravaged friend and ultimately effecting an end to handgun violence in Oakland, Calif.--maybe even the entire U.S. In this canny and sophisticated fable, Howe (The Game of Life) interpolates her loopy plot with serious discussions of philosophy, teen romance, a recipe for "weepless" lemon meringue pie and finely honed characterizations. Especially endearing are the hero and Omaha Nebraska Brown, the feisty gal he's drawn to by his own free will--or is it determinism? Throughout, Howe edgily challenges the reader to decide whether the events related therein (allegedly with the help of an extraterrestrial) are due to chance or fate. The story's teasingly open ending will inspire delighted conjecture. Ages 12-up.

San Francisco Chronicle May 30, 1999
In its wonderfully idiosyncratic treatment of the fractious junction of fate and free will, Norma Howe's brilliant new novel, THE ADVENTURES OF BLUE AVENGER (Henry Holt; 230 pages; $15.95), is a direct descendant of Robert Cormier's pioneering work. On the morning of his 16th birthday, David Bruce Schumacher decides to change his name to Blue Avenger, the moniker of a cartoon superhero he has created. This "modest seeker of truth" will be joined in his quest by a girl named Omaha Nebraska Brown. Howe, whose novel is set in Oakland, tackles some hard issues, among them gun control and fractured families. But her sweet-spirited, light touch is just right for painlessly provoking thought about personal responsibility and love's habit of conspiring with fate to change young lives.
Reviewed by Michael Cart, past president of the Young Adult Library Services Association.

Booklist March 15, 1999
Gr. 8-10. When David Schumacher decides, on his sixteenth birthday, to change his name to "Blue Avenger," he immediately finds himself taking on the tasks of a superhero. In short order, he rescues his school principal from an attack of killer bees, convinces the students on the newspaper not to ruin their article on condom use with tabloid illustrations, and even comes up with a long-awaited recipe for a lemon meringue pie that doesn't weep. The theme of the book--determinism versus free will--is something both Blue and his girlfriend, Omaha, ponder. Do individuals have any choice in their behavior, or is life an inexorable chain of events? Smart teens will enjoy the freewheeling tone of the book, complete with its sometimes-coy asides . . . à la Kurt Vonnegut, and despite the breeziness, they'll grow to care about both Blue and Omaha. -Susan Dove Lempke