Sixteen-year-old Miles Morales always thought he came from bad blood. Both his father and his uncle were hoodlums when they were his age, and now his younger cousin was locked up in prison. Miles was worried that he would inevitably follow in their footsteps. Like Bigger Thomas, was his destiny written in stone by forces beyond his control?
That was a question he asked himself every single day. Despite being a nascent superhero with the powers of a genetically engineered spider, Miles couldn’t shake the feeling that he was the monster Dr. Frankenstein was chasing.
But one day while perusing his school’s library, Miles discovered a little tidbit about spiders that would help him navigate his family’s messy history. “It used to be said that spiders could connect the past with the future,” explained a chatty librarian. “I think it has something to do with the symbolism of the web.”
Suddenly Miles knew what he had to do. Just as a spider weaved a web, Miles had to weave his own path in life. The same fearlessness that led his father, uncle and cousin to a life of crime would now propel him toward excellence. “I believe it’s not just about where you’re from,” he said, “but also about where you’re going.”
Whoever convinced author Jason Reynolds to write this amazing book deserves a gold star. Reynolds (As Brave As You, Look Both Ways and Stuntboy, in the Meantime) has a passion for telling stories about kids (like Miles Morales) who overcome challenges and triumph over their circumstances. He’s a lively writer who’s tapped into the intellectual and moral climate of our times.
As such, his Spider-Man novel is a nuanced look at an Afro-Hispanic teenager (with superpowers) who’s grappling with family issues, personal identity, school and romance. Naturally there’s villainy afoot, but there isn’t a Vulture, Goblin or Octopus anywhere in sight. Instead of superhero bang-ups, Reynolds informs his story with the pulse of music, language, literature and poetry. I guarantee that you’ll never read another superhero novel containing so much poetry—specifically Korean poetry.
Miles successfully defeats his family’s lingering bad reputation, and by doing so he finds a way to overcome the past and move confidently into the future. In other words: By creating a new and stronger web, he’s able to smash the old webs to smithereens. Spider-Man superpowers not required.
[Miles Morales: Spider-Man / By Jason Reynolds / First Printing: August 2017 / ISBN: 9781484787489]