The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope (Book)

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Nadia Van Dyne is new to this. New to being a Super Hero, new to being a real friend and stepdaughter (to one of the founding Avengers, no less), new to running her own lab, and new to being her own person, far, far away from the clutches of the Red Room-the infamous brainwashing/assassin-training facility. She's adjusting well to all of this newness, channeling her energy into being a good friend, a good scientist, and a good Super Hero. It's taking a toll, though, and Nadia's finding that there are never quite enough hours in a day. So, when she's gifted a virtual assistant powered by the most cutting-edge A.I. technology that the world has to offer, Nadia jumps at the opportunity to "do less, experience more"-just like the advertisements say.

The device works-really works. Nadia has more time to pursue her passion projects and to focus on new discoveries. But it's never quite that simple, and not everything is as it seems. This thrilling adventure finds Nadia confronting her past as she tries to shape her future, and learning that sometimes the best way to effect big change is to think small-maybe even super small, Unstoppable Wasp-style. She'll need the help of her genius G.I.R.L. (Genius In action Research Labs) squad and found family to save herself and (not to be too dramatic) the entire world as we know it. Along the way, Nadia discovers that when she teams up with the people who love her the most, they're totally Unstoppable. Just another day in the life of your way, way above average teenage Super Hero.

This week brings a new novel focused on the tiny Avenger, The Wasp (specifically the younger Nadia Van Dyne), but is it worth picking up? Check out my full review to find out!

Being a superhero is never easy. When you’re young, taken from your parents and raised to be an assassin by the same group that produced the Black Widow, and then take up the mantle of one of the founding Avengers (your Step-Mother no less), oh and sprinkle in a dash of mental illness; and it becomes a bit more complicated. That’s life for Nadia Van Dyne, the Unstoppable Wasp.

The new novel from Sam Maggs, Built on Hope, takes on all these elements to deliver a brand new tale for the superheroine. To be honest, I know next to nothing about this particular version of the Wasp and I haven’t kept up with Marvel comics in quite a long time. As such, I went into this book knowing very little about the current set up of the hero dynamics at play, which fans who’ve been reading the comics would know.

Thankfully, none of that is a requisite to enjoy this book! Seriously, even knowing very little, the novel does an excellent job of surreptitiously filling in the details from Nadia’s backstory, how she came to be the Wasp, and how she fits in with all the Ant-Man related people. It’s all laid out relatively quickly without feeling like a massive exposition dump. It comes about naturally as we learn about the members of G.I.R.L (Genius In action Research Labs) who comprise her team and inner circle.

The heart of the story isn’t so much on her super-heroics, as it is about how she deals with trying to balance her normal life, dreams, and aspirations on TOP of battling evil forces. For me, that’s what made this story so engaging. We’ve seen plenty of ass-kicking action superhero stories, but the most engaging ones have always been about how they struggle with the everyday stuff (one of the reasons I love Spider-Man so much).

Nadia has a lot on her plate and her overwhelming amount of things to do (including finding an unexpected journal from the mother she never knew) and turns to a new smart device with state of the art artificial intelligence to help keep her organized. As she continues to push herself harder than ever before, her friends and family begin to fear she’s falling into another Manic episode. A more sinister threat is looming, however, and they’ll need to work out their issues to save the world.

This is the basic run down of the story, but I don’t want to delve into any spoilers so I’ll leave it at that. There’s quite a bit more going on in the story, with a multitude of elements being pulled together. At the heart of it all, however, is a deeply personal story that goes beyond the action. In fact, in many instances it shies away from the action set pieces that are common in superhero stories (though what we do get is impressive), and chooses to focus on the impact those elements have on the characters themselves.

Nadia is an easy character to relate to, even though her origins are far from the norm. She’s earnest and approachable, unafraid to love her friends and risk everything to help them. It’s a trait that makes for an enjoyable perspective to follow, bringing a youthful energy to the writing style that keeps you flipping the pages.

It’s an impressive bit of writing from Maggs that she’s so perfectly able to capture that tone of teenagers (albeit genius level teenagers), while still telling a compelling story about mental health and the need to rely on your support system without reservation. Being that it is a novel geared towards the young adult age group, this makes sense. It’s easy to read, without dumbing things down in the least, and serves as an excellent, character-driven tale even for those who haven’t kept up with all the Marvel characters.

More than the writing and characters, I really loved the themes present in the book. They aren’t subtle and feel all the more powerful because of it. Here, we get to see superheroes struggle with mental illness (Nadia has been diagnosed with bipolar) and proper coping skills in a frank and honest way. There’s no tiptoeing around the issue and it does a great job of normalizing the idea that it’s OK to seek the proper help and rely on others. This is something I think many younger audiences need to see, and it’s handled in a way that makes it relatable, normal, and still fitting within the story being told.

Editor review

1 reviews

A Meaningful, But Fun Adventure
Overall rating 
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By and large, I can tell you that I’m not the target audience for this book. As such, I’m sure a few things didn’t land quite the way they would with others. That doesn’t hold Built on Hope back from being a smartly written and highly engaging book, however. I thoroughly enjoyed the excursion with this character, and despite knowing nothing about this version of The Wasp before, I find myself very eager to see more of her stories. 

If you enjoy a good character book set within the Marvel universe, or have some pre-teen/teen kids in the house who like to read, The Unstoppable Wasp is an easy purchase to recommend.
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