Review: The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta (2013)

Heat Factor: Mostly in flashbacks and implied by nerdy song lyrics

Character Chemistry: They don’t interact all that much

Plot: She-Hulk’s mild-mannered alter-ego keeps a diary about her love life, or lack thereof

Overall: A fun read, but not really a good romance

As I was reading this book, I kept wondering: who is the audience for this book? Does She-Hulk have that much of a following of people who are also interested in chick lit? And then it hit me. The audience: it’s me. I am the audience. I didn’t know anything about She-Hulk, but I’ve seen enough superhero movies to generally understand the superhero genre. And even though I wouldn’t call this a romance novel, it’s close enough that it falls in my wheelhouse. 

With that said, I had a blast reading this book. It’s a bit silly, but in the funnest way possible. Jennifer, our heroine, has a great narrative voice; the conceit of the book is that we’re reading her diary, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. There are a lot of “OMG! Amazing!”s and “KaPOW!”s. And also some legalese. 

There are two main drivers of the plot: a lawsuit that Jennifer is working on and Jennifer’s project of self-improvement (her Valentine’s Day resolutions, because New Year’s resolutions don’t work for her). The self-improvement plan shapes the diary entries and gives Jennifer excuses to go do random things in the city; the lawsuit eventually ties all the subplots together in a satisfying way. 

I really just wanted to show off this vintage Hulk lunchbox

Now, much as I had fun reading this book, I must be an honest reviewer and say that the romance part is pretty lackluster. There is a love story, but it is definitely not the heart of the book. I wouldn’t even say that the love interest is Jennifer’s most important relationship; her best friend has way more page time and emotional connection (plus she’s hilarious and has a dog who provides comic relief). Jennifer and the dude get together pretty abruptly after years of emo yearning and then a few months of misunderstanding, but there’s not a lot of emotional pay-off in the moment. 

The other central interpersonal conflict here is between Jennifer and She-Hulk, as she (or they?) navigate the precise nature of their relationship. Are they the same person, or not? Like Jennifer’s love life, this conflict is also wrapped up abruptly at the end. They (or she?) reach a rapprochement, but we don’t see much of the build up in getting to that point. One day Jennifer is insisting that She-Hulk is a completely separate person who she doesn’t like releasing, and the next day, Ka-BAM! Jennifer and She-Hulk have decided that they’re more than just roommates in a body. Given that this relationship is the most unique part of the book, the way it was quickly tied up in a bow was a bit disappointing. 

If you’re looking for a superhero story that is strictly a romance, this is not it. But if you’re looking for a superhero story that’s a fun read with a bit of a love story, The She-Hulk Diaries is a good place to start. 

Buy Now: Amazon

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