Black Widow: Forever Red
Author: Margaret Stohl
Publisher: Marvel Press
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Superheroes
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Source: ARC received from publisher at BEA 2015
Rating: 2.5 Stars
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***I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way changed my opinion of the book. The review below is my open and honest opinion.***
Synopsis from ARC:
Natasha Romanov was once the world’s most lethal assassin. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the name “Black Widow” by her brutal teacher, Ivan Somodorov. Now, Natasha wants nothing more than to leave that life behind her.
Ava Orlova is trying to live the life of an average American teenager. But Ava’s life has been anything but average. As a girl, she was experimented on by Ivan, until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed in the care of the US government. Ava spent years trying to contact her mysterious savior, but Black Widow has always stayed silent.
When children all over the globe begin to go missing, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned. And Ava may be the key to stopping him once and for all. But first Natasha and Ava will have to unravel their pasts to defeat the madman who threatens their futures.
This was easily my most anticipated book at BEA. I was so stoked standing in line, waiting to meet Margaret Stohl and to get a copy of what was described as “Marvel YA”. I love Marvel and I love YA. Put them together and it will be perfect right? I wish I could say that it turned out that way and that all my hopes and dreams came true, but the truth is, this book was a crushing disappointment.
My biggest issue with this book was the characters. The only character that I truly enjoyed was Natasha Romanov herself and while she does play a major role, she’s not in fact the main character. Our main character is Ava, a young girl Natasha rescued from the clutches of a man named Ivan Somodorov, the same main who trained Natasha as a child. And by trained, I mean tortured until she became the lethal weapon she is today. The problem was that I couldn’t bring myself to like Ava. She was very surface to me. She wanted to live an ordinary life, supposedly, yet she threw herself headfirst into danger. Sounds okay, but I didn’t see any motives for her to be doing what she was doing. There was very little character development. I had no idea what Ava wanted or why she wanted it. Everything about her felt fake to me and I couldn’t root for her when I didn’t really care about her at all.
And then there was the romance. Major instalove present here. Alex and Ava know each other for literally five minutes and he’s already thinking about how he can just look at her and know exactly what she’s thinking/feeling. Um, what? Can you read the facial expressions of a stranger minutes after meeting them? I know I can’t. And then they fall in love too quickly and there’s zero relationship development. They never really talk, they’re always running for their lives and I just wasn’t buying it.
The world-building was another issue I had. It was shoddy at best. There were a lot of things that went right over my head because they weren’t detailed enough. There wasn’t enough explanation as to what Ivan’s goals were, how his tech worked, etc. I felt pretty lost through most of the book and kind of just had to accept everything and hope I had a good enough handle on it to understand what was going on.
I will say that the book got much better towards the end (probably once Natasha showed up again). I really enjoyed seeing Natasha’s character develop. Seeing her let the walls down even a few inches was really interesting and it was fun to be in her head. The action picks up at the end as well and there are some twists that I didn’t exactly figure out, but they also didn’t really shock me all that much either. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish Black Widow had been the main character in this book and that we could have just been in her head the whole time. Ava and Alex never really seemed to fit. I thought they were both very surface characters that I didn’t care about. I craved more scenes with Natasha and even the other Avengers (Tony Stark is the only other one who makes an appearance). All that being said, I read a really early copy of this (got it in May, doesn’t get published until October) so perhaps there have been some changes since. I’m sad to say that if another Marvel YA book is published, I probably won’t be reading it.
Have you read this one? What did you think? If anyone has read the finished version and thinks/knows they changed some things let me know! I’d love to give it another chance!