Title: The Night Gwen Stacy Died
Author: Sarah Bruni
Publishing date: 2013
To not know whether he would never come back, or whether he would always come back, and always they would be abandoned again and again. (pg. 184)
Synopsis: The life of Sheila Gower, a disinterested high school student by day and gas-station attendant by night, is forever changed when she’s willingly kidnapped by taxi driver, Seth Novak. Still struggling with the childhood loss of his older brother, Novak is tormented by dreams of others dying. When one dream of a man’s suicide begins to repeat itself night-after-night, he “kidnaps” Sheila and sets off to Chicago to try to stop it. The novel follows the young couple – living under the comic-book aliases of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy – as they evade the police, fall in love, and try to save a stranger’s life in the Windy City.
Opinion: As much as I hate to say it, this book fell flat for me. I liked the premise. I liked the Spiderman angle. But somehow, something missed the mark.
For starters, even though there was action happening throughout the novel, I felt like the plot wasn’t going anywhere. It was more like sequence of events instead of actions with consequences that build on one another. And somehow, the central story line – going to Chicago to prevent a suicide – seemed to get swept to the side for about two-thirds of the novel.
As early as fifty pages in, I had no desire to pick this one up and continue reading. It just didn’t interest me enough and I didn’t really care what happened next. Although the plot did gain momentum in the last 75 pages, the ending still felt lack-luster.
Perhaps part of the issue was in character development. As I read, I felt the main characters were both constantly doing or saying things that seemed weird. Maybe that’s because the characters weren’t clearly drawn from the beginning. I didn’t have a clear picture of who Sheila was, so when she would, for example, have explosive emotions and fits of anger, I was confused. And because I felt like I didn’t know her or understand her, I ended up detached from the story as a whole.
Outside of the plot and character development, I didn’t find the writing particularly moving, which can sometimes win me over regardless of what transpires between the pages. The language wasn’t challenging and neither were the ideas or themes.
In summary, it was a decent story told in an unremarkable way.
Overall: 2 out of 5
Who should read this book: Young adults, especially teenagers who have an affinity for comics and superheroes. I imagine as a nerdy 16-year-old girl, I would have enjoyed it more than I did now.