Sometimes an author and a character are a perfect match. Such is the case with YA/middle grade author Jason Reynolds and Miles Morales, whose days juggling his Spider-Man duties and high school dilemmas are recounted in Miles Morales: Spider-Man.
The book is out now (and crawling up the New York Times best-seller list), but for those still unfamiliar with Miles’ story, Reynolds has provided seven things to know about the half-black, half-Puerto Rican teen hero.
Check that out below and stay here for EW has an exclusive excerpt from inside the book, too.
7 Things to Know About Miles Morales, from Jason Reynolds
- Miles is a sneakerhead (but doesn’t have any cool sneakers)
- Miles can’t dance. At all.
- Miles “might” like poetry.
- Miles loves old school video games.
- Miles plays around with his web like it’s silly string.
- Miles loves the smell of sandalwood (Miles knows what sandalwood is!)
- Miles’s favorite dish is his mom’s pasteles.
Excerpt from Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
In the midst of the cafeteria cacophony of pitchy voices, Miles choked down what he could of his lunch and took two small sips of apple juice before the bell rang. Kids jumped up from the lunch tables and poured into the hall. Ganke, who had already had Chamberlain’s class that morning, slapped Miles’s hand before they went their separate ways.
“Good luck,” Ganke said.
Cue the ominous organ music.
As Miles entered the classroom, Mr. Chamberlain was scribbling a quote passionately across the board, his handwriting scratchy and jagged. When he finished writing, Mr. Chamberlain turned to face the students, still filling in their desks. His skin was yellowy and thin, and his lips—beneath his furry slug of a mustache—were chapped from constant licking. He assumed his normal meditative stance—hands together, woven fingers, his face a tight fist.
“War means fighting, and fighting means killing,” he said softly. Miles refused to look him in the face. Actually he refused to look anyone in the face, still embarrassed about how the suspension went down. Alicia, who also had this class with Miles, sat in front of him. Right in front of him.
“War means fighting, and fighting means killing,” Mr. Chamberlain repeated, the students settling into silence. He was referring to the quote he’d scrawled on the board behind him. “War . . .” he started again, now closing his eyes. There was a hush in the room. For a few, it was because they were amused. For others, like Miles, it was out of respect . . . or maybe fear. But for most, it was from boredom. Most students used Mr. Chamberlain’s class as naptime, dozing off while he droned from the front of the room with closed eyes, almost as if he was speaking in some kind of intense dream state. “War means fighting, and fighting means killing,” he repeated for the last time. Every day, he delivered a new quote three times like a chant, an incantation summoning the spirit of this sucks.
And . . . this sucked.
Mr. Chamberlain picked up right where Ganke said he left off, explaining to the class what America would be if slavery hadn’t existed.
“It could be argued that the country as we know it wouldn’t even be here. The luxuries you all love so much, like your precious cell phones, might still be just a lofty thought meant for an alien planet somewhere far away. Slavery was the building block of our great country.
We shouldn’t just blindly write off the argument for the Confederacy wanting to keep it. It could very well be argued that they weren’t just fighting for the present, but also for the future.”
While Mr. Chamberlain was yapping, Miles squirmed in his seat. Not because he had to go to the bathroom—no, he knew what Mr. Chamberlain was stating so boldly was dead wrong. Morally. There were so many things to consider. The most obvious was . . . slavery. Human beings enslaved, mistreated, killed.
Then again, maybe Chamberlain was calling everyone’s bluff—all the bored students who he had to know weren’t paying any attention. Maybe he was trying to make them angry so they would engage. Like Brad Canby, a trustfund goon with a pockmarked face who was always more concerned with getting a laugh than getting an A. He never paid attention in any class, but especially not in Mr. Chamberlain’s. But judging from Alicia’s head shaking in front of him, Miles knew she was just as disturbed by what the teacher was saying. And that was enough to make him put his hand up.
But before he could call out for Mr. Chamberlain—who could never see raised hands because his eyes were always closed—Miles lowered his hand. Then he brought it up to his temple.
His head was buzzing.
Oh no. Not again.
Miles sat still in his desk, trying to block Mr. Chamberlain out and let it pass. The buzzing will go away. No big deal. It’s nothing, anyway. But Mr. Chamberlain was really digging in now. “And, though given so much credit after the war for freeing slaves, it mustn’t be ignored that at the beginning of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln’s policies shifted dramatically from the antislavery platform he’d campaigned on.”
Mr. Chamberlain’s voice distorted in Miles’s ears. Don’t get up. It’ll pass. It’s nothing. It’s probably nothing. He stared at the back of Alicia’s neck, the fuzzy hair left unbraided at her nape, curling toward him. What if . . . ? No. But seriously, what if someone’s hurt? What if the city’s being torn apart? He kept trying to ignore it, but with every pulsing vibration came the nagging possibility that someone was in danger.
Miles Morales was having a full-on meltdown.
Miles thought about the people he saw in his neighborhood tweaking on the block, trying to fight off whatever they might’ve been addicted to. The old men, crashing into the bodega door with the shakes, just trying to get to the fridge. The ladies, scratching their heads and forearms, trying to remember how to get home. Trying to remember when they left the house in the first place. The Cyrus Shines.
“They going through it,” Miles’s father would say to explain the withdrawal, the sickness. “Hang in there,” he’d say to them as he and Miles walked by.
Miles needed to hang in there. To resist the urge to save someone other than himself. But he was getting lightheaded. His heart was beating faster than it ever had, and it felt like his veins had tightened, making it possible to actually feel the blood coursing through his body.
To try to steady his mind, he fell into a routine, a pattern to get through the class.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.
Breathe. Blink the blur away. Breathe.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. Block out the droning wah-wah-wah of Mr. Chamberlain’s voice.
“Yes, the Thirteenth Amendment states that there shall be no more slavery in the United States, except as punishment for crime. Perhaps it could be argued that the enslavement of our criminals is still keeping our great country alive.” That statement was like a needle stuck in Miles’s spine, tightening his body, forcing him to glance up. He caught Chamberlain’s eyes, which, surprisingly, were open just for a moment, leering directly at him. Then
Chamberlain closed his eyes, steeled his face, and finished his statement. “That is, in the minds of our Confederate forefathers.”
Breathe. Blink the blur away. Breathe.
Was he . . . smiling?
Alicia, sensing Miles staring at the back of her neck like a weirdo, turned to the side, caught him out of the corner of her eye. Smirked, her cheek dimpling deep enough for Miles to want to dive in.
Sandalwood. Calm. Breathe. Breathe.
And then, finally . . . finally . . . the bell rang. Chair legs scraped against linoleum as people jumped up from their desks. Miles slowly stood, a ring of sweat around his T-shirt collar, relieved. He’d made it.
“You think he’s serious, or is he baiting us?” Alicia spoke softly to Miles as she packed her books away in her bag.
“Um . . . I don’t know,” Miles said, wiping his forehead, then zipping his bag. Mr. Chamberlain was erasing the quote he’d written at the beginning of class. Miles scowled at his back.
“Why you looking like that?” Alicia uttered, studying Miles’s face. Miles caught himself and turned his grimace to a grin. But Alicia seemed doubly confused. “Now, why you looking like that? Did you enjoy that mess?”
“What, the class?” Miles looked down for a moment to gather himself. “Of course not. No. No.” His head still buzzing, his stomach still churning, sweat still leaking from his skin. He probably looked like he had pneumonia. Don’t pass out, he thought. Don’t pass out. And while coaching himself out of passing out, he also knew he couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to say something nice about Alicia. A compliment. But not about the way she looked or smelled or the slight th she substituted for every s. He needed to say something that would offset the creepy look on his face. Then it hit him—he’d tell her how much he’d liked her poem. About the mountain. Of love. And like. “Hey . . . um . . . so, this is random but I enjoyed your po—” he started, but the words got trapped under the rock rolling up his throat. He swallowed it back down, and tried again, no longer smiling. A burp escaped. Alicia cocked her head to the side. “Sorry.” Miles covered his mouth to block belch breath. “I was saying I—” His words caught again. “I was saying I enjoyed your . . . your . . .” Suddenly it was more than just hiccups or burps. He was heaving. Alicia took a step back, stared at him, a look of concern on her face.
“Sorry, sorry, I . . .” He put a hand over his mouth, lurched forward. “Oh . . . God. I . . .” And then he bolted away from Alicia, past Mr. Chamberlain, almost bowling over the lingering students standing in the doorway, to get to the bathroom.