The Tenth Hero by Barry Klemm

Published: 7 September 1997
Goodreads badgePublisher: Addison Wesley Longman
Pages: 204
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

“An ordinary kid, an extraordinary adventure…”

Lee Parsons has been dumped at Finchley, a stuffy boarding school in England, by his arrogant TV star dad, Trevor. Back home in Melbourne, Australia, all hell is breaking loose – his mum is falling apart and his best friend Scottie is struggling to cope. There’s only one thing for a guy to do.

Get on your bike, Lee!

 So what if it means riding halfway around the world, getting rained on, shot at and arrested. And with Trevor in hot pursuit. Lee is on a mission, and nothing and no one is going to stop him… 

I adore this book. Nothing else to it. Even though I read it a dozen times or more in high school and know how it plays out I adore it. I still get so nervous and excited and angry and involved, it is rather astonishing. Granted it has been a fair few years since I last read it until now (since it is so bloody hard to track down!) but that isn’t the point.

This book, this little book, packs so much into it, so much sadness and tension and excitement and wondrous storytelling. It is amazing. The story itself is very straightforward and not too glamourous or deep exactly, it is the story of a 14 year old Australian boy who has been forced to move to England with his father and enrolled in a boarding school he hates. When a letter from his best friend back home in Melbourne arrives it sparks the beginning of a daring feat and a mission that will see Lee attempt to leave England behind him and set his sights on returning to Australia by any means necessary. I have seen this classed somewhere between JF and YA but based on the content it is definitely teen/YA, though possibly a bit different than the YA novels of today.

The journey Lee takes is adventurous and exciting, he gets help from a range of people and gets caught up in dangerous and exciting situations with pure determination to keep him going. The characters are also something that makes this story what it is, away from the ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ notion there is a lot of heart and emotion and struggle that Klemm captures without it being overpowering or distracting. The complex simplicity of the issues involved in this novel are beautifully played out, the perspective of both Lee and Scottie are what keeps the serious nature of some elements as serious, but with a youthful perspective.

Trevor as a character was someone I always found it very hard to deal with. What Klemm offers us is not just Lee’s opinion of him, we see his character for who he is and how others notice his arrogance and behaviour as well. This creates wonderful emotion as you read because you can get so infuriated and a tad disgusted at him and it wills on your support for Lee, giving us a villain in disguise. This noticeable dislike and off-putting side of Trevor is one of the key reasons this book works, spoiling nothing but I believe a lot of it would not have worked if Trevor had been portrayed differently. Having said that, it’s also wonderful that Klemm did not fall into the trap of showing Trevor as the perfect father around others and then reveal his true self when he was alone with Lee. I thought this was clever, and it really plays into the fact Trevor was arrogant as a whole and this reveals the bad father more than any conscious deception would.

Truly this book should be made into a movie, I would watch the crap out of this if it was a movie, but with the risk of a movie ruining what we love we’d best leave it alone. The book provides plenty to fill you with joy and images and descriptive storytelling, and even manages to offer great action without actually having a lot of real action.

The description and the places described are amazing and the contrast of it being viewed through a young boy’s eyes is incredible without the story focusing on that alone. Klemm’s writing manages to describe everything exceptionally, we do not get descriptions of random or unnecessary things, we follow Lee and we see what Lee sees and how it affects him. Lee has a mission and he sees what he sees and we get it all from him. The journey itself is incredible but the people who help him are incredible as well. If you think about it now, the events described in this book would never be possible today whatsoever. Maybe not even a couple of years after it was published.

The perspective does not solely follow Lee however; one thing I always love was that Klemm alternates between third person and second person point of view throughout. This second person point of view is where we see Scottie’s side of things, Scottie becomes us as Lee goes on his journey and we gain a lot of Lee’s history through Scottie and his experience and memories. The ‘You’ Klemm uses makes it feel like someone is retelling Scottie’s own story to himself, narrating it to him as he lives it, or making us become Scottie as we read. It allows us access not just to Lee’s history, but another side of what is happening while Lee is away by giving an emotional connection, something that third person possibly couldn’t achieve to the same level, and where it does occur concerning Trevor, the emotion required is achieved adequately through dialogue and actions alone. This three point system works extremely well because each style gives us what we need depending on which character it concerns and which person the story is focusing on.

Every time I read this book the ending still pisses me off slightly, not the ending itself which was fairly cool but leading up to it. The whole thing infuriated me but that is perhaps the point, the result of this chase and the suspense and this notion of what did it really achieve while possibly achieving a lot. It is amazing, Klemm doesn’t really resolve anything concretely as there is not really a looming thing to resolve, but he does at the same time. You are left making up your own ending while still having one provided for you; it is extremely clever.

Note: Unfortunately if you want to read this book you are going to need an awful lot of luck. The book is no longer in print but you may find it at a second hand bookshop, most likely one online (anything outside Australia I have my doubts). Other than that if you have an awesome library they may have it as well. I spent about eight years tracking this book down and I finally found a copy (which is now never leaving my sight) only a couple of weeks ago from an online secondhand bookshop, so good luck!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. allvce
    Jan 26, 2014 @ 20:52:50

    The Tenth Hero sounds really interesting!



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