Living with a secret is hard – you have to tiptoe around the people closest to you, and lying becomes your new favorite hobby. That’s exactly what 17-year-old Gene life is like – he’s no ordinary teenager.
Living in a world where the human race is nearing extinction, Gene must learn to survive the horrendous cannibalism that is spreading throughout the population. Andrew Funkuda’s second installment in a trilogy, The Prey is an edge-of-your-seat thriller filled to the brim with secrets.
You want your protagonist to be heroic but admit it: you want your hero to have secrets, too, and the darker the better. You need them a little bad, a little flawed, with closets hiding a skeleton or two. Who wants a shallow simpleton for a hero? Here (in no particular order) is my list of top ten favourite heroes with secrets:
10. Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables
Valjean is a man with a heart of gold but is weighed down by a shameful, secretive past. It is this very secret that makes him such an enthrallingly conflicted and sympathetic figure. You can’t help but feel for him, and deeply so. Your heart bleeds with a strange kind of release when he finally sings in the Broadway (and now movie) version: “Who am I? Who am I? 24601!”
9. Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester is a man with a huge skeleton in his closet.Actually, it’s worse than that – it’s a madwoman in his attic. Once you get over the utter weirdness of this – and, dear reader, it can stretch credulity – you realize why Rochester has become such a tormented and bitter curmudgeon. But do you not, despite yourself, feel some sympathy for him? And does not his love for Jane Eyre feel both more genuine and desperate?
8. Nicholas Brody in Homeland
You’re never quite sure about Nicolas. Exactly what is going on behind those cool blue-grey eyes and Bruce Willis smirk? Is he a terrorist or a misguided patriot? Has he really fallen for Claire Danes (Juliet!) or is he totally playing her? Every time you think you’ve figured him out, the rug is pulled out from under you. But this uncertainty is what makes Brody, and the whole series, so compelling.
7. Dr. James Sheppard in Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
I read this book when I was a naïve, thin-skinned 10-year-old. I was completely taken in by Dr. James Sheppard who, because the book was written from his first-person perspective, was the protagonist-hero of this masterpiece. He was smart, he was articulate, he got to be Hercule Poirot’s assistant! But, oh, the secrets he had. The book's ending floored me; I couldn't move for an hour. I thought Sheppard was a hero. Until he wasn’t.
6. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games
Her secret, though not the centerpiece of the storyline, adds immeasurably to the novel. During the games, she and Peeta decide to fabricate a romance to better their odds of surviving. But this shared secret only works to draw them ever closer in a genuinely intimate bond, until they, like the reader, are left to wonder where fiction ends and reality begins. This tension is ratcheted up as the climax draws near and an ultimate decision must be made.
Click next to see Andrew's top 5 including Batman, The Sixth Sense and MORE >>
5. D. C. Comic’s The Batman
Or rather, Bruce Wayne, whose secret identity – and not his cool gadgets – is what makes him so compelling. Batman may not be faster than a speeding plane, or more powerful than a locomotive. But he has gravitas and that is way better. Because we want our knights dark, not shining, and Batman delivers on that count.
4. Joseph from the Bible’s Book of Genesis
His brothers dumped him in a pit then sold him off to slave traders. That must have hurt, physically and emotionally. Twenty years later, after he’d risen to the top of the Egyptian ranks, he had his chance for comeuppance. His brothers – the very same ones who tried to kill him – enter the royal courts begging for food. Joseph hides his true identity and what follows is high drama. As it unfolds, with Joseph vacillating between kindness and downright meanness, one can’t help but get the sense that Joseph himself is trying to decide what is sweeter: revenge or reconciliation. High stakes indeed, one which Andrew Lloyd Webber captured quite brilliantly in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
3. Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie
No list of heroes with secrets would be complete without mentioning Dustin Hoffman’s turn in Tootsie. An effective comedy with surprising depth, it has one of the best unveiling scenes in Hollywood history when Tootsie finally reveals her (his) secret.
2. Dr Malcolm Crowe in The Sixth Sense
A secret so guarded that it is hidden not only from the audience, but also from the hero? That’s the thrust of Bruce Willis’s character in The Sixth Sense. The movie was so good that the twist-ending film almost became a genre of its own. But in a packed field of poor (Identity) and successful (The Others and The Prestige) copycats, nothing holds a candle to the original masterpiece.
1. Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves
This book is so magnificent that Ben Affleck adapted it for the big screen in The Town. For good reason: the main character’s secret is to die for. Doug MacRay is a bank robber who follows a potential witness, possibly with the intent of killing her. Instead, he ends up falling in love with her. That’s an amazing setup. So many layers to this romance, this character, so many secrets in this tangled web that is weaved.
And that's a wrap! Did Andrew cover them all or do you have any heroes with secrets to add to the list?
The Prey by Andrew Fukunda is out on January 31.