’The She-Hulk Diaries’ is a whole new take on the tall green lady in the pleather bodysuits that has graced the Marvel universe since 1980. In a series of diary entries penned by her human counterpart, Jennifer Walters, the reader gets insight into what it’s like for Hulk’s cousin as she struggles to come to terms with her two very different lives. While meant to showcase She-Hulk as a strong, female character, the novel often loses sight of its lofty feminist goals in favor of taking on the tone of a casual romantic comedy. Though this book is a light, fairly entertaining read, it lacks focus in both content and tone, ultimately leaving the reader confused.
There are a few things immediately established about Jennifer Walters which are repeated throughout the book: she is a wildly successful lawyer who has found herself unemployed, she needs to find a new place to live, and she wants a boyfriend. She wants a boyfriend so much that she writes more about her potential romantic interests and past hookup than she does about the amazingly fascinating case she gets assigned. While, in all fairness, her romantic pursuits turn out to be crucial to the overarching plot point, a reader looking for intense action and a highly detailed conflict will be disappointed. For the most part, the set-up is overly drawn out and the resolution is rushed—what should have been some of the most dramatic scenes in the book are cut short, making for a whole lot of build-up without much payoff.
The book also lacks a clear audience. The tone and writing style is vaguely reminiscent of a Meg Cabot book (á la ’The Princess Diaries’ or the ’All-American Girl’ novels). Jen may be a super successful grown-up lawyer who does adult things like consult on tax issues, but the tone and focus of the novel come off as a being as juvenile. Every now and then the content makes an attempt to focus on “serious adult stuff” only to fall back into the same teenage-y patterns.
Another problem results from the confused setting. The New York City that She-Hulk resides in is an odd combination of futuristic technology and time/space travel combined with current pop culture references. Either the world presented in the book is meant to be an alternate version of our own timeline, or ’Game of Thrones’ is meant to be on its 20th season. Also, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Anderson Cooper and Tim Gunn have all ceased to age. This lack of clarity is oftentimes disconcerting; it’s jarring when cyborgs and cloning technology are mentioned in the same chapter as Victoria Beckham.
Is Acosta’s Jennifer Walters a successful feminist figure? The answer is… meh. While she demonstrates some character growth by the end of the novel and accomplishes her personal goals, the story is more like a hesitant step in the direction of feminism than a soaring She-Hulk leap. It needed something more. However, given that the ending certainly leaves room for a sequel, there is yet hope for that giant leap.
Overall, ’The She-Hulk Diaries’ is a cutesy, easy afternoon read that will appeal to a teenage female audience. Anyone looking for something more in-depth than light action slathered in romance, however, will want to pass this one up.
The She-Hulk Diaries is available Tuesday, June 18th from Hyperion books.