Miles Morales A Spider-Man Novel by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds’s “Miles Morales” was not at all what I expected. I thought, cool, Spider-Man. Which “big bad” does he fight this week? That wasn’t the case. “Miles Morales” is real. We read Miles deal with the struggles of coming from an impoverished family trying to afford private school while maintaining grades and crushing on a girl.

Even the villain of the story is real. He’s a white guy, Mr. Chamberlain, who uses the system to keep a black kid from moving up. As the story progresses we find that all black people have encountered a Chamberlain that has kept them down, metaphorically, but also in this story, literally. It is later discovered that all Chamberlains are working together to keep blacks subservient. One Chamberlain explains how he is working to have the bus routes changed so that half of the kids at his school won’t be able to attend. Yeah, eventually there’s a monster cat thing that Spider-Man has to punch in the face, but that is a small fraction of this incredible story.

Aside from fighting institutionalized racism, Miles has a crush on a young woman, Alicia, that he is afraid to approach. In Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, Peter has no problem asking out a girl on a date, but he is usually distracted by being Spider-Man. Miles’s case is more realistic, he fears rejection.

Miles’s friend Ganke deals with his own family problems, but put’s Miles first. At times, Ganke can be annoying, but he means well. When Miles comes home battered and bruised from a Spidey fight, and Miles tries to tell Ganke about it, Ganke brushes it off and instead teases Miles about his crush.

Family plays a big role in the story. Miles’s dad constantly reminds Miles about his and his brother, Aaron’s, past. Miles’s father and uncle were criminals, stealing to survive. After Miles’s father met Mile’s mother, he cleaned up his act, but his Aaron didn’t. Miles’s father puts a lot of stress on Miles to break out of the family’s bad name and make something of himself, not just for his family, but for his neighborhood. Miles’s neighborhood takes pride in its dwellers and wishes the best for them.

Arguably, “Miles Morales” is a classic Spidey tale with all of the tropes: balancing school, bills, friends, family, work, dating, and oh… putting on spandex to web up monsters. I highly recommend “Miles Morales,” not just as a superhero book, but as a book about a relatable person trying survive the day to day in a society that has it out for him.

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