First sentence: “Natasha Romanoff hated pierogies—but more than that, she hated lies.”
Natasha, Natasha, where art thou? You’re certainly not in Black Widow: Forever Red (at least, not as much as I had wished you were).
When I heard there was gonna be a novel about Black Widow, I jumped in joy, and I had thought it would be an origins story (of sorts)—like how Natasha became the Black Widow and a bit of her history. The young adult part of Natasha’s life. Imagine my surprise when Black Widow: Forever Red focused on a new character—someone I didn’t particularly care about—and essentially shoved Natasha out of the spotlight.
The Problem with Black Widow: Forever Red
- Not enough Natasha Romanoff.
You’d think a book that has “Black Widow” in the title would be about well, Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow, the person the book was titled after. But no, the main focus was on Ava Orlova, the girl that Natasha had saved from evil Ivan. Natasha isn’t as a big focus; she feels like a side character that’s just furthering the story along. When she shows up, she feels like an imitation—someone who’s parading behind a Black Widow mask and hadn’t been flushed out to be a fully formed character.
- You’re expected to know who Natasha is based on the movies.
Have you watched the movies Natasha Romanov appears in? Yeah? Well, that’s good. However, if you didn’t, tough luck. For someone who may not know who Natasha Romanov is, they’ll be at a huge disadvantage because this book expects you to know who she is and how she is like.
Stohl does a poor job exploring Natasha and her background; readers have to rely on the movies’s portrayal of Natasha to “know” her, which is terrible and incredibly lazy. Even if Stohl based Natasha off of the movies, I expected the book to go into who Natasha is and develop her as a character, but do we get that? No, we barely scratched the surface in Natasha’s characterization. Natasha is vague, at best. I hate that we, as readers, are expected to imagine Natasha as the movie version of her, when I really wanted to see how Stohl would portray the character on her own.
- Holy gross instalove.
Stay away, guys. You have Ava and Alex, a teenage boy who Ava saw in her dreams (bleh, ikr?), who go from 0 to 100 in the romance department in a couple of days. These two barely know each other, but Alex declares he’s in love with Ava after a couple of days of knowing each other. How about no?
(I guess you can blame the conditions they’re in because they’re in a life-threatening situation, but don’t they know? “Relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last.” — Annie Porter from Speed. It’s not love, Alex. It’s just misplaced fear.)
No remarkable character development.
You come out of Black Widow: Forever Red not really feeling like this world or the characters were fully developed. You want to learn more about this universe? Ha, sorry, nothing. How about Natasha? Nope. You still don’t get an insight in her character. What about these new characters? Haha, no. And the villain? Ivan, who had a big impact on Natasha’s and Ava’s life, turned to be insignificant villain since he didn’t feel big or bad or anything.
Everything felt underdeveloped. No in-depth exploration of any of the characters. I didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the characters because they felt like they were masquerading behind masks, pretending to be the person they claimed to be or the movie version you’re expected to know.
- Margaret Stohl’s writing was lazy.
I’m not a fan of Stohl’s writing. It’s cheesy and lazy. Black Widow: Forever Red was essentially a typical YA novel with whatever Marvel stuff that could be thrown into it from the movies and TV shows, and had no great lasting impressions or character development.
If you want good Natasha Romanov/Black Widow representation, don’t pick this book up. It’ll be a mistake to. It doesn’t illuminate you on Natasha’s character nor of this world. You’re better off reading fanfiction.