Spider-Man’s Social Dilemma Brings the Hero to a New Generation | Book Review

The latest novel putting the focus on the iconic web-slinger is giving the hero a new journey for the next generation, while still being fun for long-time fans.

My love of Spider-Man is fairly well known, and Peter Parker has been through a number of adventures over the decades. One of the key reasons he continues to resonate with fans after so many years are by having creators who find fun ways to update his origin and overall story for different generations.

Spider-Man’s Social Dilemma
Written By: Preeti Chhibber
Published By: Disney Books/Marvel Press
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Purchase [Affiliate Link]: https://amzn.to/3ytouIh

Now it’s Preeti Chhibber’s turn with Spider-Man’s Social Dilemma. The middle-grade novel (the first in a planned trilogy) plops Peter Parker firmly into modern times, complete with social media influencers, current slang, and a touch of the cringiness inherent with teenagers. If that sounds off-putting, don’t fret!

The novel doesn’t hit you over the head with all this stuff, rather it’s used to flesh out the world these characters live in. For younger readers, it should feel instantly familiar/welcoming, but neither is it a deterrent for older readers who know Spider-Man from other escapades!

Social Dilemma picks up as Peter Parker is still in thee early days of being a superhero. It’s not necessarily a retread of the origin story we all know (which is nice), but throughout the novel we do get the chance to see how certain things come about.

Peter struggles to balance his dual lifestyle between fighting crime and being a “normal” awkward teenager. It’s not an easy life, but in some ways he’s beginning to make it work, and even finding himself growing closer to his long-time crush, MJ Watson.

When the villainous Sandman is released from jail a series of odd events are set in motion and things get strange in the city. A seemingly invisible entity tries to steal an artifact from the museum, and villains (both big time and petty crooks) begin acting more aggressively than ever before. As even normal people begin to seem affected, Peter must put both his might and brain power together to solve the mystery behind the artifact’s origin before it’s too late.

All this while finding time to make extra money, finish up a big school project, and cultivate his budding relationship with MJ. Yep, sounds like a Spider-Man adventure!

On the whole, I really enjoyed Social Dilemma. While there are elements of a story we’ve seen before (a few times), I loved the way Chhibber gave them a fresh feel. For example, the story explains how Peter Parker came to meet and work for J. Jonah Jameson at the Bugle, but modernizes it.

Peter isn’t just a photographer, he’s helping deliver shots and quotes to use for the Bugle’s social media pages. Using this, he’s trying to curtail JJJ’s campaign to smear Spider-Man and give his own image a boost in the eyes of every day citizens. It seems like such a simple thing, but the shift makes for a fun way to twist a familiar character dynamic.

The same can be said for multiple elements in the novel (which I won’t spoil for you here), and I was blown away by how effortless it all seemed. The story brings in these new twists and blends them seamlessly into the lore long-time fans already know. It’s done in such a subtle way that it almost feels like this is how Spider-Man has ALWAYS been/interacted with the world.

A big reason for this, is Chhibber’s easy-flowing prose that pulled me into the story and mindset of the characters in a blink. It’s not hard to get engrossed in this book, and her ability to balance telling the story filled with intrigue and a whole bunch of character beats without feeling too heavy on the exposition. She brings a light touch to things, while still managing to paint a clear picture of the (many) action sequences we get. Despite coming in a little over 300 pages (hefty for middle-graders), it’s a surprisingly quick read.

One of the few things that didn’t work for me was the time-frame given. It’s made clear this story is set just a few months after Peter became Spider-Man. And yet, there are mentions of his previous battles with some top-tier villains and events that make it seem like he’s been doing things much longer than that. It’s not a huge deal in the long run and certainly isn’t a deal-breaker, but took me out of the story a couple times when specific mentions happened.

Other than that, the book is pretty deliberate and obvious in the themes being presented. It’s not subtle, and there are a couple moments where it feels like the book is beating you over the head with them (too much social media=bad). Considering this is a book geared towards middle-grade kids, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

All in all, I absolutely loved Spider-Man’s Social Dilemma. While it clearly sets the stage for the two other books in the trilogy, it very much works well as its own story. It’s wonderfully written and finds fun ways to modernize Spider-Man’s early journey that’s ideal for newcomers without alienating long-time fans. This is an excellent book for all ages and you should absolutely pick it up!

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Editor-in-Chief: Writer and cartoonist who went to college for post-production, he now applies his love of drawing, movie analysis, filmmaking, video games, and martial arts into writing.