Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Heroic by Phil Earle


I had the huge pleasure of Chairing at the Edinburgh Book Festival again this year. It’s my absolute favourite thing to do…I just wish it was on all year round. (Although I’m not sure my liver would agree.)  One of the best things is hearing authors talk about books I’ve read and loved so I’m going to focus on those for the next wee while.

I was delighted to Chair Phil Earle this year because he’s already one of my favourite YA authors and it was a real privilege to see him talk about Heroic to an audience of rapt teenagers. It was extraordinary to see the kids sit forward in their seats, leaning closer to pay attention to his talk.

Heroic begins with an emotional poem called ‘The Brothers’ by Michael Wagg. It tells of two boys talking about battlefields and heroes and swapping stickers. And it beautifully sets the scene for the novel, which is about two brothers and battlefields at home and abroad and about being each others hero, but who sadly have outgrown just swapping stickers.

Jammy and Sonny are brothers who live on the Ghost estate. It’s not a particularly pleasant place to live, but it’s home and they’re loyal to the Ghost and its own particular laws. Sonny also has to stick to the commandments Jammy has laid down to keep his younger brother out of trouble. Because Jammy is out of the country, fighting in Afghanistan and Sonny is a bit of a hothead and without his big brother to keep an eye on him he drifts into battles of his own.  But when Jammy comes home, Sonny can see that things are not as they used to be, something has changed his brother and it’s up to him to become the hero.

Heroic is an absolutely wonderful book. It’s stuffed full of real characters, alive on the page. The interaction and banter between the friends, the brothers, the kids and the adults is stunning to read. Phil Earle has an absolute gift for writing dialogue.

Heroic is set both at home and abroad, with scenes skipping from the bleak, desolate streets of the council estate to the searing hot wreckage of Afghanistan. The two situations are so well drawn in parallel. The similarities in environment, the trouble both brothers find themselves in and most importantly the strength  each draws from their friends and comrades.

This is a powerful, evocative novel. It’s strength really lies in the heart warming relationships between the characters, in their struggle to do the right thing despite being dealt some harsh circumstances. Despite Heroic’s traumatic setting there is a lot of humour and a huge amount of warmth in the way the characters support and look out for each other.

If you have a teenager in the household who has decided that books aren’t for them, I would advise leaving Heroic lying around for a couple of days, somewhere they can find it. I can pretty much guarantee it’ll surreptitiously vanish.

About Eve Harvey

Eve Harvey is a bookaholic. She is forever to be found with her nose in a book. If there are none around then newspapers, magazines, the back of cereal packets, road signs or the tiny washing labels found on the seams of jumpers will do. Eve used to have full time job as a children's bookseller and she was the very first Waterstone's Children's Expert Bookseller in Scotland. Her first love was definitely literature for children and teens, about which she has nerd-level knowledge. However she has since become involved in grown-up books and has co-written her first adult novel with Cath Murphy. Eve and Cath Podcast, blog and have far too much fun on their website Domestic Hell. Eve lives in a field just outside Edinburgh in Scotland with her daughter and son and two dogs and two rabbits. She also has some tanks of tropical fish and vows one day to start up a marine aquarium. And the day she signs her very first publishing deal she is going to celebrate by buying a pair of Horsefields tortoises. You can find Eve through her Agent, Ella Kahn at DKW Literary Agency. She's also on Twitter or on her website :

One comment on “Heroic by Phil Earle

  1. Jackie
    October 22, 2013

    This sounds like a really worthy book and a good way to help kids deal with the issues of war & the effects it can have. And also a good one about the good parts of families & what they can mean. I hope every school library gets a copy of this one.

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This entry was posted on October 22, 2013 by in Entries by Eve, Fiction: young adult.



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