“You are Sari! Right now you are standing in a library looking at the books in the “New Arrival” rack, wondering if “Romeo and/or Juliet a chooseable-path adventure” would smell just as sweet as the original story. You hesitantly reach out to pick it up.
If you pick it up continue to paragraph 2. If you laugh and think, “oh hell no”, stop reading this post.
You pick it up wondering if this is truly something that would encourage your average teen to become engaged with Shakespeare. You flip to a random page out of curiosity. With mild trepidation you read a paragraph. The first thing you notice is the simplistic writing style. The author uses short, concise sentences. You wonder if he does this out of fear that his audience has a short attention span. As you read on, you wonder if the author has a short attention span. As you flip to the next page to read more, you wonder if the author is 10 years old. You begin to regret your current life choices, beginning when you read the title of the book you now hold in your hand.
It’s occurred to me that with the plethora of books we’ve seen published in the last 24 months with “Shakespeare” in their titles that my best course of action would be to smother my keyboard with tuna and allow my cat license to stomp around my computer for a few hours and then submit the mess to a publisher under the title “A Feline’s Guide to Shakespeare”. My luck it would hit the bestseller’s list and my cat would become the academic hero of the family. When will publishers say, “Enough is enough”!
Oh sure this book by Ryan North is full of words, words, words, but as an intro to Shakespeare it is useless. The library has classified the book as suitable for ages 8 to 16. Did the publisher suggest this? I’m not sure a book that makes use of several sexual references is suitable for 8 year olds and the writing is far too simplistic for 16 year olds.
In this adventure you start out as Juliet but quickly become Romeo who can choose to fall in love with Juliet or fall in love with a dude (North’s word, not mine), making it very un-Shakespeare like and more of a modern “politically correct” book. So much for Shakespeare.
There is very little in the way of Shakespeare’s work in this book. Most of it consists of Ryan’s self-indulging humor(I could almost hear him laughing at his own jokes). He starts off on the wrong foot when he says it’s Juliet’s 17th birthday (she’s actually 14) and quickly goes off the rails from there.
You have things to do too, Juliet. You tear through some quick stomach crunches (three reps of ten) and some pec blasts (four reps of eight), and your ready to start your day. So! Your well muscled and your family’s rich. What’s for breakfast? (page 4)
How are we to take this book? Surly this cannot be taken as a serious effort to get teens into classical literature. And if this is indicative of modern teen books, it shouldn’t surprise us that fewer and fewer teens are choosing to read as a leisurely pursuit.
It appears Mr. North does have an audience. His first choose an adventure book, Hamlet, was funded by Kickstarter. That book turned out to be the most funded publishing project for the company to date. This must have emboldened Mr. North to try again with Random House behind the project. I just wish I understood his aim (besides monetary gain). Did he really believe he this would bring teens closer to Shakespeare or did he also notice that anything with Shakespeare in its title would be easy to publish?
Personally I don’t think dumbing down Shakespeare or turning his work into adventure stories is doing our culture any favors. I see this type of art as part of the problem we are now facing. The government’s emphasis on more science-based education is pushing the Humanities to the outer edges. Colleges are bemoaning the fact that students are not receiving a well-rounded education because of this. Books like North’s do little in the way of helping the situation, as his simplistic approach to “Shakespeare” is little more than an adventure into the land of pop-fiction. And lousy pop-fiction at that.
I’d recommend skipping this adventure.