Transcript: Not Now, I’m Reading Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

CHELSEA: Welcome back to episode ten of Not Now, I’m Reading, your one-stop shop for all things genre. My name is Chelsea.

KAY: And I’m Kay.

CHELSEA: And we are together!

Both: Yayyyy!

CHELSEA: In the same building in the same room! Space!

KAY: In the same state and time zone!

CHELSEA: It’s crazy! So if our audio sounds a little different than it usually does, that’s because we’re recording on one mike, together, at my kitchen table. Being best friends.

KAY: Obvi.

CHELSEA: Talking today about Miles Morales.

KAY: Yay!

CHELSEA: The Spider-Man novel by Jason Reynolds. So super cool. But before we do that, first we’re gonna do what we always do and tell you about the stuff that we just finished. I will go ahead and start. I have two books and two fics to recommend. The first book I wanna talk about is Autoboyography by Christina Lauren. This book comes out September 12. It’s so good. It is so good. It is absolutely amazing. I loved it so much. Basically this is the story of Tanner Scott. Tanner Scott is bisexual. He lives his life out in California. His parents know, they’re very supportive. That’s actually one of the great things about this book. He has a super great family and support structure, but then his mother, who works at a tech company, basically gets headhunted to go work for this company in Salt Lake. Or no, excuse me, in Provo. So, and his mom is from Utah and has history there, of course, with the Mormon Church. And so they go to Provo and Tanner has to kind of go, basically, back in the closet. He makes the choice to do that and his parents kind of encourage the choice to do that only so things are easier for Tanner. I have thoughts about how that works. You can have thoughts about how that works. But in the world of the book, that seems to be the safest choice for Tanner to make for himself.

Kay: As someone who went to high school with a bunch of Mormons, that was a good life choice.

CHELSEA: So, you know. Yeah. Everybody has their own feelings about how, you know, to handle being in or out of the closet, but in the context of the book it makes sense. But it’s his last semester in high school. Tanner’s getting ready to go back to a California college where he can be out, he and his best friend Autumn take this thing that is just called The Seminar. So he’s taking this class called The Seminar and the point of this class it to draft a book in a semester. And the semester before Tanner and Autumn take it, one of the students actually gets a book deal for his novel and he becomes kind of a local celebrity. He writes this fantasy novel and he’s coming back to guest teach the class the year Tanner’s taking it. Spoiler alert: he’s gorgeous. His name is Sebastian and from the minute he walks into this classroom, Tanner is infatuated with him. Sebastian becomes infatuated with Tanner and has to do a whole lot of soul searching and sort of self-wrestling with his sexual identity. Which is a huge, huge part of the novel.

KAY: Question: is it all from Tanner’s perspective or also from Sebastian’s?

CHELSEA: It is 95% from Tanner’s perspective.

KAY: Okay.

CHELSEA: But there are some chapters towards the end of the book where we get to hear from Sebastian.

KAY: I think that’s a very interesting choice especially because Christina Lauren is a writing team. A lot of times you’ll see with writing teams they’ll kind of switch off with narrators and that’s not the case for everyone, but it’s much more common with writing teams, otherwise. That’s very interesting to me.

CHELSEA: Knowing that it’s a writing team, it reads very seamlessly. It does not read, cause, even with some of the best writing teams, maybe it’s because of that alternating format?

KAY: You can kind of tell.

CHELSEA: Yeah. But that, cause in fact, I did not actually know Christina Lauren was a writing team.

KAY: I think they write mostly romance, right? Yeah.

CHELSEA: But anyway. So the book is gorgeous. And so it’s a happily for now. Which is nice, because sometimes books that take place end of high school early college happily ever after doesn’t ring true.

KAY: Ugh. No.

CHELSEA: But for all of the hardships that things like religion and family and church present for the relationship between Tanner and Sebastian, it resolves itself in a really nice way. The book does talk about Mormonism specifically, but then just also kind of religion in general in the way that it affects your family and your upbringing and the way that you think about yourself and your sexuality and the actions you take in your life. I just really loved it. I thought it was really great. It may be kind of triggering if you come from a deeply religious community and have had some negative interactions.

KAY: Hey, hi. [laughs]

CHELSEA: Hi, hello. So there’s a little bit of that, but I did not necessarily find it deeply upsetting, but.

Both: Your mileage may vary.

CHELSEA: Yeah. As always. And then the other thing I wanna recommend is also another piece of queer fiction, but this one is much sadder.

[laughter]

CHELSEA: Kay’s laughing because she’s looking at the Goodreads page of what I’m about to talk about. It’s The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Which is basically just a professionally published Ancient Greek fanfiction

KAY: RPF.

CHELSEA: Between Achilles and Patroclus. If you don’t know that story, um —

KAY: Check out a wiki page. We’ll link you.

CHELSEA: I spent several weeks in Western Civ on this one story, so there’s a lot of info there. Over the course of the novel Patroclus is sent by his father to be kind of trained and raised in the court of Achilles who becomes his best friend. They’re trained by the archer Chyron and Achilles grows up to be a hero/legendary fighter in the Trojan War and Patroclus is his best friend and also boyfriend. Spoiler alert if you’re literally completely unaware of how anything in the Trojan War, it ends really badly. [laughs]

KAY: For basically everyone.

CHELSEA: This is one of those queer stories that does end in tragedy if that is a thing that triggers you in any way —

KAY: Don’t read this.

CHELSEA: But it is gorgeous. This book is so beautiful. And it just makes me cry every time even though I’ve read it five times and I know how it ends because it doesn’t change, it’s still so good. And then to switch veins completely, to what I’m reccing —

[Kay laughs]

CHELSEA: My fic recs that I’m making.

[Kay is muffling hysterical laughter]

CHELSEA: Is The Lithuanian Diet by DreadPirateRoberts. This is a piece of Hannibal fic which shortly, or not shortly, a couple weeks from now, we’re gonna be posting our Hannibal episode where we’re gonna be doing a super deep dive into the show and more specifically the fandom, so look out for that if you want more Hannibal recs, but this is just super adorable. It is a crossover between Hannibal and the Netflix show Santa Clarita Diet with Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore. And Kay is shaking her head at me right now, but literally it is so good. Because the plot of Santa Clarita Diet is Drew basically becomes a zombie. She becomes the undead. But she and her husband Timothy Olyphant are realtors in southern California and so they’re very upbeat and very peppy and they’re trying to kind of hide her undeadness. So the whole concept of this fic is that Will and Hannibal have kind of gone undercover, think witness protection but not, and they’re living next door to Joel and Sheila Hammond, who are our Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant. And it’s just so good. They decide to work together to, uh, appease some of Hannibal’s darker needs and also Drew Barrymore’s need to eat people. And it’s only like 3000 words long so you should just read it.

KAY: I wish you guys could see the face I’m making right now.

CHELSEA: She’s making such a bad face right now. Oh, but guys, not that you can see it, but she should just brace her face muscles for what’s about to happen next. Because the next thing I’m going to recommend to you is called The Wildest Dreams of Wild Men by novelized. I don’t remember where this came from. I’m about 95% sue that this was included in one of the most recent The Rec Center. They recently did a list with various fics from random tiny fandoms and this, I think, was one of those. That or I just ran across it doing some Yuletide scanning, but it is a Good Will Hunting fic between Will and Chuckie. And I have a very, very deep and nostalgic love for the movie Good Will Hunting that I am still kind of working through emotionally and unable to put a direct finger on, but I didn’t’ even realize how much I wanted to read this fic until I read it. Basically Will after a couple of years living in California with Skylar while she goes to med school, he’s just kind of over it. It’s not really working for him. He’s not really seeing Skylar. She’s having her own set of issues. So he goes home to his best friend Chuckie, who awaits him with open arms and it’s so good and it’s so loving and warm and I’m done.

[laughter]

CHELSEA: Kay is having such a hard time just keeping all of that in while I recommended everything.

KAY: Okay. So I’ve been reading almost entirely just fic lately because the world is on fucking fire and I’m bad at reading  new things. I did finish an audiobook recently. It’s Christie Golden’s Battlefront II: Inferno Squad. So it’s the new Star Wars novel that’s about an undercover team from the Empire and just. [sighs]

[Chelsea laughs]

KAY: I should’ve known better. This just wasn’t really gonna be my jam. The writing is fine and I think it’s paced well. If you can get over how literally everyone is a bad guy in this, even the people who are theoretically good guys, then this is for you. I didn’t love it. The narration was also really great. I am sorry, I should’ve looked about how you say this narrator’s name. Janina Gavankar. She’s also the voice actor of this character in the game.

CHELSEA: Oh, that’s cool.

KAY: Cause it’s from one of the Star Wars games. She did a really good job. And as with all Star Wars books it was produced very well. There’s great sound effects and music cues. So if you are okay with your heroes not really being heroes, you’ll probably enjoy this a lot more than I did. And then moving on to fic, cause I didn’t really love any of the other books I’ve finished recently. This fic is called cancel all your reservations (no more hesitations) by notcaycepollard. It’s basically Bucky and Sam going undercover and fake dating. And it’s great because those are two things that I just cannot resist at all. But also notcaycepollard is a delight and it’s really funny and adorable and also Bucky is the cutest. I just.

[laughs]

CHELSEA: He’s so cute.

KAY: He’s got such a crush on Sam and it’s so cute, but also they’re giving each other shit. Because of course they’d be giving each other shit. It’s adorable. Also, on this wonderful trip I have taken, I have introduced Chelsea to the joys of Stargate: Atlantis.

CHELSEA: Guys, it’s so good.

KAY: Which is a terrible show, but also had the best fandom ever.

CHELSEA: It is the best thing. My mom and I watched SG-1 and we didn’t watch SG:A cause she thought it looked dumb. Spoiler alert: my mom maybe wasn’t totally wrong, it is dumb, but it’s also delightful and wonderful and I loved it.

KAY: On a character level, to inspire fandom stuff, it’s great.

CHELSEA: Yeah.

KAY: The show itself is kind of garbage. But we love it so much.

CHELSEA: We love it so much.

KAY: But anyway. I’ve now introduced Chelsea to SG:A, which meant I had to go through my bookmarks and figure out which fic to recommend to her.

CHELSEA: So many.

KAY: Spoiler I sent her at least 52. So she has one for every week of the year.

[laughter]

KAY: But this fic is by one of both of our favorite fic writers, astolat.

CHELSEA: It’s so good.

KAY: It’s called A Beautiful Lifetime Event. It is a John/Rodney story and basically they accidentally make a baby in a jar. Which, like, once you get into SG:A fandom that’ll just seem normal.

CHELSEA: Yeah.

KAY: Cause weird shit happens. I think that’s one of the magical parts of this fandom. You can give the most ridiculous premise and it’ll be like, yeah. That scans.

CHELSEA: That’s fine.

KAY: That shit happens.

CHELSEA: I mean, that’s the point of the Stargate. It’s fantastic.

KAY: This is about 29,000 words. It’s very sweet. It’s very funny. It’s also a gut-punch to the feels. But it does in fact have a happy ending. It’s delightful. And my last one for today is the place between places. It’s a work in progress.

[Chelsea gasps]

KAY: I know I rec those basically never, but I don’t think spacenarwhal has ever abandoned a fic that I’ve been reading. It’s an au where Jyn Erso was held hostage by the Empire. She was captured at the same time as Galen Erso. And she escapes and it’s about her and Cassian in the Rebellion.

CHELSEA: Cassian? Cassian.

KAY: She says it Cassian half the time.

CHELSEA: Does she?

KAY: I don’t know if that’s just her being stupid. It’s definitely Cassian Andor.

CHELSEA: I was just making sure I hadn’t been saying it wrong.

KAY: Maybe I’m just not processing her accent correctly, but it definitely sounds like Cassian when she says it. Whatever. There’s a bunch of original Rebel Alliance characters. And normally I’m not here for your OCs, but —

CHELSEA: Oh, is that a slow build and mutual pining tag?

KAY: Yes.

CHELSEA: That’s my favorite. That’s the best.

KAY: I haven’t recced this to you yet only because it’s not done.

CHELSEA: I appreciate that.

KAY: But it’s great. And K2 is also in this and great because we love K2. If you haven’t picked up that I’m talking about Rogue One fic, because I don’t think I actually mentioned that. I just went into talking about the character names and expecting that you all knew what I was talking about. It’s been a long week, guys.

CHELSEA: A long week of SG:A and eating crap food on my couch, which is the best.

KAY: Our brains are basically melted into puddles in our skulls, so sorry about that.

CHELSEA: But in the best possible way.

KAY: But that fic is great. If you don’t read works in progress, that’s fine, but you should definitely subscribe to this fic or to spacenarwhal.

CHELSEA: You should send it to me and I’ll subscribe and when it’s done I’ll pop back in.

KAY: Good call.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

CHELSEA: On that note, let’s go ahead and talk about our book of the week, which is Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man novel by Jason Reynolds.

KAY: By the way, we love Jason Reynolds. National Book Award finalist for Young People’s Literature. He’s also an NAACP Literature Award for Youth and Teens winner. He’s great.

CHELSEA: He’s great. This was published right at the beginning of the month on August 1, so your library will hopefully have copies for you at least to put on hold. And obviously it’s on sale wherever it is you like to purchase your books. We did get ARC copies for the purpose of review, but as per usual, we’re always gonna tell you the truth about stuff.

KAY: Yeah.

CHELSEA: I really liked this book. I did not think this book was problem free, but on the whole, I mean, I really like Miles.

KAY: Yeah.

CHELSEA: As a Spider-Man. Caveat, I should also say I really don’t like Spider-Man as a superhero, mostly because, we’ve explained it in the past that I don’t have a comics-based background for superheroes.

KAY: [laughs] Yeah, that’s fair.

CHELSEA: And in the movies, I hate Toby Maguire more than I hate, like, maybe —

[Kay laughs, startled]

CHELSEA: — any actor that has ever acted in a thing that has been on camera, so.

KAY: Whereas, like, I have a deep and abiding love for the Spider family.

CHELSEA: Yes, that’s fair.

KAY: And basically all of the Spidermen, women, whatever. I love all the Spiderpeople, okay?

[Chelsea laughs]

KAY: I love the street level hero-ness of Spideys. And Miles is a fairly longtime favorite of mine. I don’t think I like this book quite as much as Chelsea did.

CHELSEA: That’s fair.

KAY: But it wasn’t a failing of the prose itself, or anything, or even the characterization. There were just a few storytelling choices I didn’t love. I would probably give this three and a half or four stars.

CHELSEA: I think I gave it four stars. I really like, and I think this is also why I liked the new Spider-Man movie, too, is because I like my Spider-Men as teenagers.

KAY: Yes.

CHELSEA: Making teenage choices.

KAY: This very much feels less like a superhero novel. I’d say 90% of it is just a contemporary YA novel.

CHELSEA: He spends relatively little time actively actually in his Spidersuit or whatever.

KAY: We do not get a scene of him using his Spidey skills, or than him using his web to turn on the TV, until page 123.

CHELSEA: And even then he’s not out to purposefully solve crime, he’s just taking a swing through the city to blow off steam and just happens to cross a crime. Because Spider-Man.

KAY: Because Spider-Man.

CHELSEA: I really love this one. I love Jason Reynolds. He does great dialogue and I think that that is something that is so incredibly hard to do.

KAY: Yeah.

CHELSEA: Especially if you’re straddling the Young Adult and Middle Grade divide. This book is definitely Young Adult.

KAY: They’re sixteen.

CHELSEA: But he just captures that actual dialogue that kids speak to each other.

KAY: It feels very realistic.

CHELSEA: Which, working with teenagers all day, is a thing that will grate on my nerves a lot if it’s not done well in a book, so A+ for that.

KAY: This is my first Jason Reynolds and I was just impressed all around by his writing of young people. By his prose in general. It’s really clean and spare. But not in an affectated? Affectation? I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. It’s not an affectation, it’s just a very purposeful way that he writes.

CHELSEA: I think it’s that he’s writing for accessibility for teens at several levels.

KAY: Yeah.

CHELSEA: Which is important because a lot of the teens who might be classified as reluctant readers tend to be drawn to things that have other media tie-ins or are comic books or are superhero related. Manga tends to do really well and comic books tend to do really well. So the fact that he’s able to portray that in an almost 300 page novel is super great.

KAY: Can we take one moment to have an aside about how terrible this cover art is?

CHELSEA: It’s so bad!

[laughter]

CHELSEA: I don’t know if I cut it out, but we went on a little mini-rant about it at the end of the episode last time.

KAY: It’s so bad!

CHELSEA: Which makes me so bad because Miles is great. Jason Reynolds is great. This cover is really bad. Weren’t you telling me the ARC cover was webs or something?

K The e-galley I had was a temp cover that was basically just a web design and the title and Jason Reynolds on it. This is like, um…

CHELSEA: It’s a weirdly cartoonish version of Miles but he’s got his hood pushed up?

KAY: It looks like a realistic art style and slightly cartoony and it just looks bad.

CHELSEA: And the perspective just looks off. His hand looks ginormous and his face looks really small. It’s just a bad cover.

KAY: It looks like, you know when you’re in high school art and they make you practice with rulers and stuff, practicing perspective in your drawing? It legitimately looks like that.

CHELSEA: Yeah. Where they make you draw the two lines to the horizon? It does look like that.

KAY: We’re definitely gonna include a picture of this in the show notes.

CHELSEA: Please check the show notes and let us know. My whole thing is it’s hard to be completely objective, but if I were seventeen going into the library and saw this book, would this cover alone be enough to get me to pick this up?

KAY: Can we talk about how perfect it would’ve been if this was just Miles Morales: Spider-Man. Jason Reynolds. And it’s just maybe the lower half of his face under the mask and you can just see the start of the suit. So you see it’s a brown face? Think about how much more compelling that would be than this nonsense.

CHELSEA: I would even take, and I am all for brown kids on covers, especially when the actually kids inside them are brown.

KAY: Please, please, please, please.

CHELSEA: But because part of this book is about Miles struggling to decide whether to be Spider-Man while he tries to go to school, I would’ve even been okay with, like, just the Spider-Man mask sitting on the ground, like he tossed it off. Or it’s sitting in his room.

KAY: You see him walking away from it.

CHELSEA: Literally almost anything that’s not this cover would probably have been an improvement.

KAY: Which, like, we’re not professionals, but y’all. Come on.

CHELSEA: I’m enough of a professional that I work with teen books that I am a pretty good judge of what’s actually gonna grab a kid’s attention. Any Spider-Man book is gonna get read, but this cover is not gonna grab any kid who wasn’t already into Spider-Man.

KAY: Yeah.

CHELSEA: So, I guess that’s a good. Should we talk about other quibbles we have with the book past the not-great cover design?

KAY: I think Miles family is lovely. I really love the dynamic set up there. I think they feel like real people. I think both of his parents get to have their own personalities and wants and needs and they’re good parents. I love when we get good parents in YA. And they just want the best for their son. But, there is a dynamic in this in which Miles’ dad knows that he’s Spider-Man and his mom does not. And I’m deeply uncomfortable with that.

CHELSEA: Yeah.

KAY: For a lot of reasons, but mostly because there are very few female characters in this book, period, and one of the few main female characters in this is Miles’ mom and she is basically not trusted with one of the biggest things in her son’s life by both her son and her husband!

CHELSEA: Yeah, that’s almost the worst part. I can see from Miles perspective where maybe he would not think to tell his mom or he would feel more comfortable with his dad, but you know. Being an adult and a married lady, that’s not the kind of info that you just keep to yourself. And I think that maybe Jason Reynolds did it intentionally.

KAY: I’m pretty sure it’s comics canon. It’s been a while since I’ve read Marvel cause we’re on a break. But I’m pretty sure that at least at some point his dad knows and his mom doesn’t. But I don’t care, though.

CHELSEA: That doesn’t matter.

KAY: I don’t care. You don’t need to have that in this.

CHELSEA: Cause there’s already some really great exploration of male family dynamics. There’s some interesting stuff about Miles and his dad and his uncle and Miles finds out about this cousin that he has who his uncle didn’t tell them about. So there’s a lot of great exploration of male family dynamics in this book which is fantastic. But that doesn’t necessarily have to come at the expense of Miles’ mom knowing what’s up. Mostly because Miles’ mom is pretty chill. She’s established herself as being pretty cool so it’s not like she’d necessarily stop him from being Spider-Man or freak out or anything like that. Also didn’t love that there’s only two girls in this book, basically.

KAY: There’s more than two, but of the actual characters: there’s his mom; there’s his crush, who is pretty cool, but she doesn’t really get much screentime. She’s into poetry and is very smart and bright and from a different socioeconomic background than Miles, which gives you some interesting cross-class dynamics that aren’t explored too much, but it’s a YA novel and it’s pretty short.

CHELSEA: And I also, I would not be surprised if there’s another Miles Morales novel coming down the pike, so.

KAY: And then the other female characters we touch on, there’s another female friend character, Winnie, who we hardly see at all. And then he has a female teacher who’s great, whose name I cannot remember.

CHELSEA: But yeah, it’s his English teacher, right?

KAY: And then also the librarian who’s kinda kooky and fun. But that’s it.

CHELSEA: These are, like, maybe c-level characters.

KAY: Basically all the background characters are men or boys in his class. And that was a conscious choice. You chose to have all the background characters be male. Even in the neighborhood, they only mention one woman in the neighborhood and it’s a woman who he helps move a mattress out of her basement cause her junkie son is either in prison or died. I don’t remember. There’s very few women in this.

CHELSEA: Which is. You know. Not great.

KAY: Not great.

CHELSEA: Girls also like to read superhero stuff!

KAY: I did really appreciate the diversity of racial background of characters

CHELSEA: And like you said, the socioeconomic differences were there.

KAY: Yeah, that was great. But there weren’t enough women. And I don’t think we touched on any LGBTQ stuff at all.

CHELSEA: No.

KAY: I’m not saying you have to, but I’m just saying there’s no way.

CHELSEA: At least statistically, there’s no way at least one of the kids in Miles’ school identifies.

KAY: Or a teacher. Or someone from his neighborhood, or.

CHELSEA: And maybe they do and we just don’t see it and that’s a choice that you can make, but again that’s a choice you’re making.

KAY: Literally it’s so easy to have a throwaway line about a teacher’s wife when the teacher is a woman. You know? It’s just not that hard.

CHELSEA: Just like it’s not that hard to talk about ladies in the neighborhood or in crowds or just in general. So. It, you know. Conscious choices, friends. I really liked the big bad in this book. I think that was my thing.

KAY: I think that was our big difference. You really liked it and I was like this is not written particularly well, this showdown.

CHELSEA: It’s not. We have also talked about, before, my willingness to overlook things that are not super greatly written for the emotional payoff of the background, so.

KAY: My big problem with it, we don’t wanna be too spoilery with this, because we do both like this enough that we want you to read it.

CHELSEA: Yeah, it’s really good.

KAY: But the big confrontation with the big bad in this, the action scene is bad.

CHELSEA: The fight scene is bad. The dialogue leading up to it is clunky. It’s not great.

KAY: Which was bizarre, because the rest of this book is very well written.

CHELSEA: I thought that the best thing about this is the big bad takes a concept that feels super culturally relevant, especially given all the stuff that happened recently with Charlottesville, and everything, but it manages to take that super uncomfortable and super prescient set of ideals and embody them in a way that feels really interesting. It feels slightly unresolved which is partly a good reason why my gut says we have more books coming that deal with this. That or there were unfortunately some larger plot holes left than I would’ve liked.

KAY: I think there were threads purposefully resolved for an opening for a sequel. I don’t think he’s actually contracted for another book, though.

CHELSEA: I don’t think he is.

KAY: And if this doesn’t sell well enough, those are just gonna be hanging plot threads we never get resolved, which is a bummer.

CHELSEA: And I hope they don’t do this, but Disney could just give it to someone else and have them write the sequel. Please don’t do that, Disney. I really like what Jason Reynolds did in this book. But I thought the big bad was very interesting, just conceptually, even if it was written not the greatest. Favorite parts?

KAY: I had a couple. So one of my favorite parts is when all of Miles’ dad’s friends are over for a card game.

CHELSEA: That’s such a great scene.

KAY: And that whole scene is great, but this bit at the end with this dialogue really got me. Basically all of them got kicked out of school for a lot of not big reasons, which is an actual thing that happens to young men of color, basically all the time. Miles mom says, “There’s no way you can blame all the bad stuff in your life on a few tough teachers.” “Absolutely not,” Shep said. “I don’t blame nobody for my life but me. But I’ll tell you what. For some of us, school is like a tree we get to hide in and at the bottom of it is a bunch of dogs. Them dogs are bad decisions. So when people shake us out that tree for no reasons, it becomes a lot easier to get bit.” And yes.

CHELSEA: Damn.

KAY: Jason Reynolds, you are so good when you are on. And there’s one other part that just. [groans] Gave me visceral shudders. There are several scenes with the big bad and the dialogue in them is super fucking terrifying. In all of them. Miles is listening in on this conversation of the big bad and his minions. “Yes, yes. Miles Morales. The superhero. Extraordinary power is made only for extraordinary power and hear me, you have to be born extraordinary with pure blood and strong mind. It’s not his fault he’s a descendant of filth, but it’s dangerous to everyone that he thinks he can be more than that. I’ve been watching him, too. I’ve journeyed through his thoughts. I’ve whispered to him in his sleep. The same way I’ve done most of the men in his family. And though he’s a bit more resistant, we have to correct him. And to do that, we must break him.” And just like. Oh my fucking god. That’s so creepy and terrifying and also touches on all sorts of multi-generational issues that are addressed in this book in a very good way that I have trouble articulating at all. But they touch on the prison pipeline in this book. This is a heavy book for YA.

CHELSEA: It’s an incredibly heavy book for YA.

KAY: It is still light and funny and fast-paced, but there’s some heavy stuff in there.

CHELSEA: The bottom line is that Miles lives in a neighborhood that’s largely a neighborhood of color, and largely a poor neighborhood of color, where people are being picked up and harassed off the street for no other reason than they’re poor and black and happen to be there. That is both a real life thing that happens every single thing in poor neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color. And in the book also feeds into the larger plotline and the way the big bad is set up. It feels very true. It speaks to a bigger than of going to teens where they’re at and talking to them as growing, intelligent adults.

KAY: Kids know about systemic racism. They’re not dumb.

CHELSEA: I mean, like, it just infuriates me and baffles me that people will sometimes treat teens as though they’re unaware of the larger things happening in the world around them or that they’re not the victims of both macro- and microaggressions every single day. I just really like Jason Reynolds, in this book, speaking to them where they’re at both in language and also in plot and the things they see around them. That passage that Kay read gives me chills and is absolutely fucking disgusting.

KAY: If you want that reality gut-punch in your contemp YA, here you go.

CHELSEA: And also, side note, with some Spider-Man. And Ganke I really love him. In a very similar vein, this was a scene that really was a gut-punch for me because it combines both the racism we’re talking about and some of the other pressures teens can face. So Miles has been humiliated by his history teacher.

[Kay shudders]

CHELSEA: Who was giving a speech on the legitimacy of the Confederacy. And the validity of the 13th Amendment and why the Confederacy is super awesome.

KAY: His history teacher is basically a Confederacy apologist and a slavery apologist.

CHELSEA: It’s bad. So anyway, Miles gets up and, in anger, smashes his desk, and his teacher tells him he can either sit on the floor like a dog and write, or go to the principal’s office and get suspended. So the passage is, “He couldn’t get written up again. He couldn’t be suspended or expelled. This school was his shot. His opportunity. His parents reminded him of that. His whole neighborhood reminded him of that. So Miles, embarrassed, got down on his knees and continued scribbling his notes, using the low, legless desktop.” Goddamn, man. Just to have to deal with that kind of pressure, not just as a, like, teenager, but also as a superhero and just being a scholarship kid at a school that risks losing.

KAY: I think the part where he’s a superhero is where I have a little bit of trouble with my suspension of disbelief. Not because he’s a superhero, but that he hasn’t reached out to any of the other New York area fucking superheroes for assistance? Because there’s no way Tony Stark would not pay for this kid’s school, you know? And maybe it’s not gonna occur to Miles that that’s an actual thing he could do, but really?

CHELSEA: The counterpoint of that is, this is another passage that was a gut-punch for a completely different reason, because it’s. A lot of this book is really heavy, but a lot of this is about Miles’ family and his found family in the neighborhood around him. “Miles walked through the park towards his house. In the park the old men played chess and blasted soul jams from a parked car’s window. Little kids wobbling on their bicycles with uneven training wheels. First loves kissed on the wooden benches that would soon be beds for the homeless, next to the old ladies giving out church pamphlets. A breeze was in the air, and the trees in the park swayed, their leaves whispering to Brooklyn.” So there’s a lot of beauty in Miles’ life and a lot of great community that he has around him as he’s dealing with really awful things. A lot of his call to duty is to save that community from shitty stuff that he learns about. So I loved it. I love my found families. I love my community support books and this book is wonderful for that.

KAY: It really is.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

CHELSEA: That’s good. That’s a good note to leave it on. So we’ll be back in a week, as always. Next time is our AO3 episode.

KAY: We are so psyched!

CHELSEA: We are so excited.

KAY: For those of you who don’t know, AO3 is Archive of Our Own. It is a fanfiction archive. It is fan-run. It is a non-profit. It is amazing. And we are gonna do a deep dive on how to get the most out of your AO3 experience

CHELSEA: Yeah, we’re basically calling it an AO3 primer. How we use it. Some of our tips and tricks. Maybe the ways some of us used it in the past that were slightly unconventional. That me. It me. But we are super, super excited to talk about it. If you read fanfiction at all, you probably know a lot of the stuff we’re gonna mention. If you don’t, it’s gonna be a really great place to start. So join us in a week for that. And then if you’d like to get a jump, the week after that, we are talking about The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian. Spoiler alert: we fucking loved it.

KAY: It’s so good.

CHELSEA: But yeah. Next time we’ll be talking about AO3 so we’ll see you then. Bye!

KAY: Bye!

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Outtakes:

CHELSEA: It sounds really dark but it’s actually really cute and funny.

KAY: Usually I can scream into my own microphone and it’s easy to edit out later.

[laughter]

CHELSEA: But we have to be good this time and actually not do that.

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