Miles Morales: A smart, black boy from Brooklyn

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Summary: Miles Morales is just a normal teenager from Brooklyn trying to please his parents, do well in school, get the attention of the girl he likes, and manage being Spiderman, which isn’t always easy when his spidey-sense is alerting him to dangers he can’t see.

Sensitivities: Some violence, discussion of racism

Classroom Library: Absolutely

Most Appropriate for: older, or more advanced readers, or students that know a lot about the marvel universe. This book could be tricky for students who don’t know what they’re walking into.

Enjoyability: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Things I loved about this book: The Sijos, Jason Reynolds’ ability to add mundane details into his stories and normalize characters, the very present parents, the rich and detailed side characters. 

Things I’m struggling with: This story, is obviously, about Spiderman. Throughout the story there is a build up to the battle scene, with Miles’ Spidey sense alerting him and the way too evil history teacher. It felt like all of this build up happened and then the battle scene was 10 pages long and then it was over.

However, the more I think about this, the more I think that it’s done this way on purpose. Being Spiderman is just one part of Miles. He is also a son, and a friend, and a student, and a teenage boy trying to navigate his crush. This story tells one small period of time in his life. Once he has defeated the villain, he still has real life demons to answer to and problems of racism and discrimination that cannot be as easily defeated as the larger-than-life villain.

So while this was unsettling to me when I read it, it forced me ask myself a lot of questions and grapple with why the story was told this way and the answers make the grappling worth it.

tl;dr Jason Reynolds is masterful in his story telling. This is exactly the story Donald Glover was talking about years ago. Spiderman is just a normal, smart black kid from Brooklyn.

Teachability: ★★★ (3/5)
I can see this book being a really interesting addition to a unit about Heroes and the hero story. Examining whether Miles is truly a hero in terms of “the hero’s journey” would be interesting, especially given the arguably more heroic ending. This book could be a catalyst for an interesting discussion about what it means to be a hero. However, it may be challenging to teach without providing students with an origin story. This is included in the book, but subtly and pretty far into the story, which may create frustration for student readers.