You know, for a book called Black Widow: Forever Red, you’d think it would actually BE about… THE Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff.
Instead, Natasha is the side character in this mess. The book is ACTUALLY about these two teens: Ava Orlova, and Alex Manor.
It was very difficult to love either of these characters, as they were two dimensional and frankly very annoying. Ava is a little brat. She thinks that because she has SOME of Black Widow’s skills, that she’s suddenly an expert and can take perfect care of herself. Ava then goes on to yell at Natasha, whine uncontrollably, and throw fits as if she were 7, not 17 years old. Ava had such a “woe-is-me” attitude throughout the whole book. She was constantly crying about how everyone leaves and that she couldn’t trust anybody (honey, Natasha has been through this and more, yet she doesn’t need to complain about it every 5 seconds). If I were Natasha, I would’ve fed Ava to the bad guys a long time ago to rid myself from her incessant whining. Alex is far better because he brings a bit of comic relief to the story, however he is pretty unbelievable as a character as well. He has a hero complex and a bad attitude. He mysteriously knows how to fight, and he’s coincidentally the boy in Ava’s dreams.
There’s also instalove! The instalove here is so cringe-inducing. Alex and Ava have only known each other for maybe a few hours at most, and Alex is already proclaiming how his life is so different because Ava is in it. They’re kissing by one day of meeting. And they’re thinking of love maybe two days later. It’s ridiculous.
The world-building is incredible… In the fact that there isn’t any. I don’t know when this book takes place. It’s hinted to be after the Avengers movies, but doesn’t make sense because there are things that should’ve been known beforehand…. There were also some things that went over my head, because the author just assumed that I already knew most of the things she was talking about.
The only reason I even finished this was because of the audiobook. The narrator made it easy for me to finish the book. If I had been reading a physical version of this book, I probably would have thrown it against a wall and never read it again. Julia Whelan is a great narrator; I had already heard her narration of another series, so I was already accustomed to her voice. Her portrayal of male characters leaves a bit to be desired, but she definitely gave a distinct voice to Natasha Romanoff, Ava Orlova, and Alex Manor.
Overall, this book is not my favorite. I was expecting a story that showed Black Widow’s origin story, not one that featured two whiny, bratty, and angsty teenagers. There’s barely any world-building, almost no character development, and so many inconsistencies that you’d have to ignore everything you ever knew about Marvel to actually even passably enjoy this book.