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The Night Gwen Stacy Died Paperback – July 2, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (July 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547898169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547898162
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Seventeen-year-old Sheila Gower is going nowhere fast. Working at a local gas station, she has no aspirations to go to college but is learning French in the hopes of moving to Paris. Then a man who goes by the name Peter Parker starts to frequent the gas station. Sheila finds herself increasingly curious about why he’s christened himself with Spider-man’s alias, and when he walks in one day with a gun, suggesting they stage a robbery and flee the state, Sheila agrees. The two drive to Chicago and begin a new life together. Peter starts calling Sheila by the name of Spider-man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, but what he doesn’t tell her is that she’s factored heavily into prophetic dreams he’s been having. Peter is on a mission to save a suicidal man that he’s seen in these recurring dreams, and he believes he needs Sheila by his side to do so. Bruni’s debut is an unusual and inventive love story, with two lost souls who hold the key to each other’s salvation at its heart. --Kristine Huntley


"Sweetly eccentric."—New York Times Book Review

"THE NIGHT GWEN STACY DIED uses Spider-Man lore to tell the tale of two loners and improbable lawbreakers from Iowa, a high-school student and a taxi-driver, who embark on a mission of escape to Chicago. Staged, at first, as an abduction—gun, robbery, kidnapping—their adventure quickly begins to resemble a surreal love story. Bruni's book superbly explores the part fiction plays in our search for identity."

"Superbly suspenseful first novel ...Bruni does a masterful job evoking their world, equal parts fantasy and reality and further skewed by a downtown Chicago that’s been invaded by coyotes...She keeps readers guessing as the plot twists and turns. Bruni writes dark passages and playful moments with equal aplomb. The world is her oyster." - Kirkus, starred

"Part tangled love story and part love affair with comics, this debut novel centers on that tenuous bit of time between childhood and adulthood, when anything seems possible and so many decisions seem inevitable. Rough with dark psychology, rich with introspection and emotion, this beautifully written book will appeal to fans of Spider-Man comics as well as coming-of-age fiction."
Library Journal

"Engaging… The novel’s quirky tone and accessible themes of rescue and recovery make for a likeable read." – Publishers Weekly

"Bruni drops us into a dreamy world where comic book characters and psychic visions are as real as teenage boredom and young love. Strange, funny, sexy, and full of insights you'll want to revisit, Bruni's debut is a magical story, a white-knuckle thrill ride."
—Diana Spechler, author of Who by Fire and Skinny
"Sarah Bruni’s fiercely smart and delectably unpredictable first novel delivers again and again that most sought-after shiver up the spine, the chill that comes when you realize the world you thought you knew and understood is newer and stranger than you ever dared imagine. The Night Gwen Stacy Died is a genuine page-turner."
—Kathryn Davis, author of The Walking Tour
"Mixed into the blustery atmosphere of The Night Gwen Stacy Died are gusts of contemporary masters, like Joy Williams, Lorrie Moore, Kelly Link, and Michael Chabon. But, like the heroes of her story, Bruni is too spirited to be confined by the voices and tales of others. The magic in the air, it turns out, is Bruni's singular voice, a spell that so easily carried me away. Bruni's debut novel gave me the sort of reading experience I always hope for but almost never find: a world that somehow both resembles the one in which I live and is also unlike any other I've ever seen or read."
—Stefan Merrill Block, author of The Story of Forgetting
"In this sterling debut, a pseudo Bonnie and Clyde with Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy delusions go on the lam in Iowa and hide out in Chicago, but the pleasures here go far beyond the propulsive narrative. The prose is blade-sharp, the eerie love story is leavened with moments of unforced wit, and the nuanced observations are utterly idiosyncratic. It's as if Lorrie Moore wrote a taut thriller—not an updated Western, but a modern Midwestern."
—Teddy Wayne , author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

"Sarah Bruni is a brave and bold new voice. This thrilling novel is as wise and intelligent as it is young at heart. With humor and grace, Bruni takes us on an unexpected adventure of love and loss, of beginnings and ends, all the while showing us what it really means to be a hero."
—Alison Espach, author of The Adults

"The perspective shifts, slippery identities, and lurking weirdness in this book recall the peak moments of Kurosawa, Hitchcock, and Lynch; Sarah Bruni even choreographs her production with the easy verve and keen eye of a great director. But to describe The Night Gwen Stacy Died in cinematic terms would risk slighting the patience and generosity and grace of Bruni’s language, and it’s that bighearted, sneakily exhilarating voice that can finally be only the work of a masterful writer."
—Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 38 customer reviews
Maybe I'm just not bright enough to get what the ending was all about.
This book is easy for me to recommend for potential readers with any level of experience with classic Marvel stories.
Kurt Conner
I found the story compelling though I felt it needed a bit more character development.
Sarah J. Carlin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Luther Moss on July 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
Novels, it seems to me, can broadly be thrown into two categories: there are emotional novels that invest the reader into the characters and circumstances, and there are clever novels that engage our intellect. Lorrie Moore corners the market on humorous and poignant while Mark Layner runs us through with his sharp wit and vast knowledge. Of course, this leads us to the books like The Night Gwen Stacy Died, the ones that pull off the magic trick of doing both, who's insights surprise us as much their melodramatic turns manage to pluck the heart strings. These are the books that defy categorization, genre and summary.
Bruni's book is not a bildungsroman or even a garden variety coming-of-age novel, though the characters all experience the the arcs that these genres demand. It's not strictly a roman à thèse anymore than it is a feminist novel, yet there is an idea of the world which drives it as it pivots on issues of gender and identity. It's not about superheroes as the title would suggest though it's chalk full of them, as well as secret identities and the looming threat of an intangible super-villain. It is not, as shortly and sweetly as it can be put, anything you'd expect.
What The Night Gwen Stacy Died is is a masterful novel about the intersection between the stories we tell and the lives we lead and how these two things are so often found to be at cross-purposes. It is a heartbreaking romance, rooted in a truly uncommon channeling of young love's profundity and brilliantly tracking those feelings towards maturity. It is a novel of place, of the Midwest and Chicago, a meticulous examination of what it is to make a home in "fly-over space.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sarah J. Carlin VINE VOICE on July 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Night Gwen Stacy Died is the story of two young runaways who are modeling their lives after Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Sheila is 17 yrs old and works at a gas station in Coralville Iowa. She dreams of moving to Paris one day, but then comes to realize how unrealistic that dream is. Peter Parker is a 20-something taxi driver who often stops in at the gas station where Sheila works. He lives with his mother and is still haunted by his brother's suicide many years before. Though Peter and Sheila rarely talk, she finds herself oddly attracted to him.

One night Peter Parker comes in with a gun. He wants Sheila to run away with him. She agrees and they make it look like he robbed and abducted her. They drive to Chicago. Peter has prophetic dreams and feels that they were supposed to come to Chicago. Sheila takes the name Gwen Stacy and they find jobs while Peter tries to figure out why they are there.

The book is kind of hard to explain because there is a lot of symbolism and different themes-- Peter has prophetic dreams, Sheila takes on Gwen's persona, she also has a strange connection to the taxidermied coyote in the University of Iowa's Natural History Museum, and coyotes show up numerous times throughout the book. You can interpret that as you will.

I found the story compelling though I felt it needed a bit more character development. I didn't always understand Sheila's actions. The books switches between voices and I enjoyed hearing situations from both Sheila's and Peter's perspectives. The pacing of the book is a bit slow in the middle but it really picked up near the end and I found the ending to be satisfying, yet I want to hear more of their story.

It's a little offbeat, and won't appeal to everyone. I found it to be a satisfying mix of Jennifer Egan and of Spider-man.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By chef ramsy on July 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
The Night Gwen Stacy died caught my attention with its bold cover and title and held it from the first illustration to the final chapter. Although it took me a chapter or two to really warm up to the characters, I became extremely invested and connected to the two protagonists as they developed personally and with each other. Sarah Bruni writes in a way that is gripping, thought provoking, and original, masterfully playing with changes in point of view which give new and essential angles to the story and offer insights into the way humans perceive themselves and the world around them.
The novel explores ideas such as the importance (or not) of place, perception and reality, the intricacies of love, and family. There are also adorable coyotes.
Love the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Conner VINE VOICE on September 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is, at its heart, a love story between a teenage girl and a mysterious stranger. Anyone who can remember making stupid decisions as a teen will certainly enjoy the main plot of the book, in which a young gas station attendant agrees to fake a robbery/kidnapping and disappear to Chicago with an odd dude she sees at work from time to time. Their love story, despite a foundation of felonies and lies, is charming, with its exploration of two people choosing to create new identities for themselves with the help of supportive partners. What sets this book apart, then, is the weird surreality. The young man calls himself Peter Parker, and he names his love Gwen Stacy - which is a quirky nickname until Gwen begins unwittingly acting out scenes from the original Spider-Man comics and choosing clothing and hair dye that mimics her namesake in a Vertigo kind of way. And of course, any comic fan knows how Gwen's story ends in the comics (and, to be fair, so does anyone who reads the whole title of this novel. Bruni isn't hiding the ball in this game), so as the story gets darker, we know and dread where it's going. Along the way, though, we get Peter's psychic visions, some deep conversations with a coyote, and other weirdness.

If you aren't a comic fan, then don't worry, as Bruni makes sure to have her characters explain the Gwen Stacy thing to each other (and you), and if you are a comic fan, you'll appreciate that Bruni gets why the comic story works. This book is easy for me to recommend for potential readers with any level of experience with classic Marvel stories.
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