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The Night Gwen Stacy Died

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,035 ratings  ·  185 reviews
An offbeat love story about the adventures and mutual rescue of a young woman out of place in her hometown and a mysterious stranger who calls himself Peter Parker (and begins to cast her in the role of Spider-Man’s first sweetheart), The Night Gwen Stacy Died is about first loss, first love, and finding our real identities.
Paperback, 278 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Andrianna More melancholy than sad, I think.
P When she came out of the lake, she used his real name, Seth. The fantasy of living as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy is over. Those characters are dead t…moreWhen she came out of the lake, she used his real name, Seth. The fantasy of living as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy is over. Those characters are dead to Shiela and Seth. Their new lives which are set in reality have started.


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Average rating 3.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,035 ratings  ·  185 reviews

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As a long time Spider-Man fan, the title of Sarah Bruni's first novel caught my attention.

And while it would be easy to assume that The Night Gwen Stacy Died is another in the long trend of tie-in novels, retelling a classic comic book story line, that is not the case here.

Seventeen-year-old Sheila Gower doesn't quite fit into her small town. Taking a job at a local convenience store to save up money to escape town by going to France, she meets a man who refers to himself as Peter Parker. And w
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
What a surprisingly delightful book.

I got this, as is my wont, off the proof shelf at the Strand. I knew nothing about it, not even the pop-culture reference so obvious that it would make most people roll their eyes: turns out that Gwen Stacy is the name of Spiderman's first love, who is killed either before or as he tries to save her.

Apparently this is her:

I didn't know that; in fact, I was surprised that the protagonist is named Sheila, and I was at least thirty pages in before I stopped wait
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, grownup
Guys, I don't even know? I picked this up because I was intrigued by the title, as a comics fan, but... okay. So I liked the start of the story. It's set in Iowa City/Coralville, which I liked, because I like Iowa City. The protagonists are a 17-year-old girl named Sheila, who works at a gas station, and a 20-something dude named Peter Parker, who frequents the gas station to buy cigarettes. Sheila suspects Peter Parker's ID is fake, because who would name their child after Spider-Man, right?

Jeff Raymond
Jul 21, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a confusing book.

It's not confusing because it's difficult to read or anything like that, but because the point is a little lost. Those looking for a comic book analogy of sorts will probably be disappointed, because, at its surface, the book is a story about a teenage girl who meets a man, and they run off together after staging a kidnapping. The man has taken the name of Peter Parker, Spider-man's real name, and he sees Sheila, the teenager, as Gwen Stacy, Spider-man's love interest ea
Jul 24, 2013 added it
This book started off okay, but then it just got weird. I read reviews that the end sucked, so I skipped to the end and it made no sense whatsoever. Yeah.
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
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 themselv ...more
Ray Palen
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Gwen Stacy is the name of the ill-fated first girlfriend of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Unlike the film versions, which totally botches that relationships, the comic book series took possibly the most dramatic arc of any to date when in issue #121 of The Amazing Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy is killed at the hands of Spider-Man's arch rival (and father of his best friend) the Green Goblin. Ironically, those who remember this issue will recognize the irony that Gwen Stacy may actually have been killed by S ...more
Sara Jovanovic
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Such a bland and shallow book. If it wasn't a required read, I doubt I would've read it otherwise. It's like a really, really bad fanfiction. And to be honest, I think I didn't understand the ending. ...more
Sep 05, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a well written and entertaining book that plays around with the Gwen Stacy/Peter Parker romance, and blurs the line between the real world and the world of fictional characters. It has shifting perspectives, all of which are smoothly done, and is basically a thriller set against the backdrop of silver age comics.

The best part of the story is the way that it works the idea of perpetual reinvention. The idea of places shaping people, languages shaping people and places, and chosen identiti
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
First Reads Review - The Night Gwen Stacy Died by Sarah Bruni

So I was really psyched when I won this through the Goodreads First Reads program, because it is literary fiction, which I probably don't read all that much of, and also because it pulls in some comic book stuffs into it, which is interesting and I think, in this case, really does work into the narrative and the themes that the author creates. It is a great book, filled with flawed people navigating a flawed world, and I found myself h
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it
NOTE: This is really a 3.5 star review.

The Night Gwen Stacy Died is the story and Sheila Gower, a 17 year old from Iowa who dreams of going to France in order to find her place in the world and a 26 year old who has decided to call himself Peter Parker, a lonely man who is taking care of his not quite elderly mother. He suffers from premonitions, an infliction he's had since his older Jake died 20 years previously.

It is because of one premonition that Peter decides to kidnap Sheila at the gas st
I wanted a superhero book that wasn't a graphic novel and it wasn't typical. And I think that's exactly what this book is.

There's this girl named Sheila. She's a run of the mill high school student with good grades, a job as a gas station attendant and a big dream of leaving Iowa behind for Paris when she graduates. In comes Peter Parker, a twenty-six year old cab driver in their Iowa town.

Life is boring, humdrum. She wants big things, he wants the strange, bad dreams to stop. His goal is to lea
Kelly Lynn Thomas
I noticed a lot of reviewers giving this book low stars and complaining about the book's "plausibility." In my opinion, these reviewers are completely missing the point of the book.

The book's two protagonists take on the identities of comic book characters, and in many ways, begin to become them. The line between reality and fiction blurs for the characters and the reader. Coyotes serve as messengers, guides, friends. Things get a little weird. The prose gets slippery. The writing is a journey i
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Sheila Gower is almost an adult. She is seventeen. she lives in a small town in Iowa. She dreams of someday leaving and going to Paris. She is preparing by learning French. So when a mysterious man comes into Sheila's place of employment, she shows the man attention. The man is older and he is a little odd. His name is Peter Parker. Yes, just like Spiderman. Peter likes Sheila. He even starts calling her Gwen Stacy, Peter's girlfriend. Peter and Sheila decide to run away together. They come up w ...more
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this on a lark. The cover caught my eye while I was stocking the bookstore shelves. Having a soft spot for Spiderman, a purchase felt necessary.

At it's core, this novel is a love story between a girl who yearns to escape her very ordinary hometown life and an older, mysterious guy. What lurks underneath speaks volumes about how we create identities around ourselves and others.

It's a delight to see this weird and peculiar tale unfold, when Sheila runs off with Peter Parker (as his fake I
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
I really wanted to like this book for the title alone, but in the end, it was so disappointing. Towards the end I lost all interest in the book and just wanted to finish it.

This book is the story of 17-year old Sheila. Sheila only wants to escape her small Iowa town and dreams of moving to Paris. She meets a man named Peter Parker. The two end up in Chicago.

The book is narrated by Sheila and Peter in alternating chapters, sometimes overlapping the same events.

Overall, the book is decent and wri
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Though this book uses the names of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy as means of escape for its main duo, this is not a book for Spiderman fans. I'm not really sure who this book is for, to be honest. It's mostly a vehicle for a meditation on identity: how it's defined, how it's changed by where we are and who we're with, why we feel the need to charge it with meaning beyond our day to day lives. But that idea is not enough to sustain this story, nor are its character or their experiences. It all fell ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Good till the end where I felt it spiraled into this sort of pseudo-artsy territory in lieu of a well planned conclusion, especially given the emphasis on fate and destiny versus individual choice. When I read in the acknowledgments that it was written over many years in many different places I felt this was sort of reflected in the last few chapters- sort of like, "let's get this over with, already." That said, it was still entertaining, and I spent a huge portion of the book trying to decide i ...more
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Big Bang Theory Fans, anyone needing a sweet pallet cleansing book
Recommended to Michelle by: critical era
What a truely unique and enjoyable read. Probably 3.5 stars, but cute enough to round up. Comic book lovers will enjoy this "coming of age" tale about a seventeen year old Iowa loner who sets on an adventure with a young man living under the persona Peter Parker. Our protaganist takes on the persona of Peter's first girl friend, Gwen Stacy. Through in a couple coyotes - one stuffed and one live, although, the second one may just be a stray dog, and you have a good easy to read story. If you like ...more
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
An amazing debut. It took a few pages to draw me in, but once it took off, I couldn't quit. It's one of those rare books that works as both adult and YA fiction. So many levels. So much blurring of lines between reality and imagination, between simply observing and having a stake in the outcome. I am from the Midwest, and so much of the apathy and passion rings true. Lovely book, worthy of a second read ... ...more
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, i-own
I had super high expectations and the book just fell short for me. I would say that I would agree with some of the other reviews that stated it falls apart at the end. I definitely felt strongly about the book in the beginning but as it progressed I was less and less interested in the characters and the plausibility of the story.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard Sanford
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
The conceit of the title felt a little precious at first but by the end of the novel it was remarkably gripping and moving. An astonishing, tough-minded coming of age novel that slips out of preconceptions and cliche, knowing exactly what it's doing. ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was a little too weird for me, but I give the author a lot of credit; the plot was very clever. I think if I were more of a comic book or graphic novel fan, I'd have enjoyed it more. ...more
Nov 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Meh. I am willing to suspend disbelief for a good story, but this story wasn't really about anything at all. ...more
Alex Daniel
Sep 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
I'll be honest with you. I picked this book up because I judged it by its cover. Cool title. Cool cover art. Looking at the back, the plot outline worked for me, the reviews from other authors I've enjoyed was promising, and it was written by a newcomer with an MFA. I'm on board.

I was excited! But it wasn't until about page 40 that I realized I was probably not going to like The Night Gwen Stacy Died. The book feels like a first book because of its ambitions: quirky characters, youngsters in rom
Andrew Canfield
Jun 01, 2019 rated it liked it
The Night Gwen Stacy died is a book whose premise and plot are difficult to explain. It hugs a plane that at times is based in reality and at other times seems stuck in the strange delusional world of would-be kidnapper Seth Novak.

On its face, the story is sort of about a girl bored to death in her Iowa town with dreams of getting away to Paris and, eventually, to Chicago. It is also about the repressed memories of a young adult who has to confront the fact that he was misled about a critical co
Ethan Ruark
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
So, this wasn't a bad book. I had a little trouble getting into it, both because it's a change of pace from what I've been reading lately, and because the whole way I was under the suspicion that the Spider-Man influence was primarily a gimmick to get people like me to read the book in the first place. I don't necessarily feel that, now that I've finished the book; but, it's real close on that score. Do the Spider-Man parallels play a role in the book? Yes, they do. However, I'm not 100% certain ...more
Chattery Teeth
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked this book alright, but it kinda peters out at the end. Maybe I missed something...

For the most part I enjoyed the writing, and the characters; but it felt like the author got to a point and couldn't find a logical way out of it. The mystery of the premonitions was a nice touch though- although the final scene just happened and I had to reread the chapter because it was just... done.

All the characters have their crosses to bear, but at the end of the story they don't seem to have learned
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Offbeat love story?
Or tale of creepy manchild who obsesses over 17 year old highschool student?
Yes, and yuck.
Both characters are in desperate need of mental health services.
Very bizarre story.
If it didn't have the statutory rape aspect, which wasn't addressed in the story line, it could have been much more interesting. But because of the age difference, it was a very icky tale.
Also, it is very tiring to have to read about characters who are actively reading word for word from a comic boo
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Sarah Bruni is a graduate of the University of Iowa and the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis. She has roots in Chicago, has taught creative writing in St. Louis, volunteered as a writing and English tutor in San Francisco, and Montevideo, Uruguay, and currently lives in Brooklyn. The Night Gwen Stacy Died is her first novel.

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