Thursday, April 24, 2008
Shakespeare for Teens
The Loser's guide to life and love / A.E. Cannon
HarperCollins, c2008. (read as ARC)
Available June 24
(hmm, is releasing this book on Midsummer's Day really a coincidence?)
Since I'm on the track of Shakespeare at the moment, I thought I'd share a bit about this book, a YA novel I recently read through the HarperCollins First Look program. It's inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream; the original play is not strictly adhered to, but this story has captured the magical, mixed-up feeling of MND.
It has 4 primary characters, Ed, Scout, Quark and Ellie. Ed is the main character, the one which the story revolves around, although it is told in alternating first person and epistolary (email, mostly) chapters. Ed gets a summer job at Reel Life Movies, where his strangely awe-inspiring boss Ali can not seem to find him a name tag. So Ed ends up wearing a former employee's name tag, reading "Sergio", for nearly the entire summer. He starts to become Sergio-like, with increased confidence and flirting ability. He meets the new girl in town Ellie (a gorgeous blonde) and begins a tentative relationship with her, based on his introduction of himself as a Brazilian, Sergio Mendez. Meanwhile, his best girl friend, tomboy Scout, is suffering from her secret crush on him. Ed's best guy friend, astronomy nerd Quark, suddenly becomes interested in girls, and crushes on Scout. If you know A Midsummer Night's Dream, you'll know how these mixed-up crushes resolve themselves. With the help of Ed's Oberon-like boss and his Titania-inspired wife, the right people end up together. The famous "End of Summer" backyard party held by Ed's boss Ali is a particularly lovely scene; it is wonderfully drawn, expressing the magical theatricality of Shakespeare's play effectively within a modern setting.
I enjoyed this book -- first off, anything inspired by Shakespeare gets my interest. But this was a good story of itself, with normal teen characters; no creepily adult, strung out, super rich kids in this one. I particularly enjoyed the character of Scout, a tomboy with a secret predilection for regency romances -- trying to hide this embarrassing fact made for a few funny moments. Ed and Scout are more fully drawn than Quark and Ellie, and I would have preferred the book to be just a little longer to get a better feel for those two, but overall it was nicely balanced. I liked the story's initial idea, that of Ed's personality changing because he was presenting himself under a different name. The author was apparently influenced by her son's experience in a summer job where he wore a name tag emblazoned with "Sergio" -- read about it in her own words to find out more about why and how she came to write this book.
So although I can't honestly state that this was a YA novel which completely stunned me with its brilliance, I did enjoy the sweet, cleverly amusing take on a Shakespeare classic. Also, I love the cover. So gorgeous, and so suitable.
Recommended for younger teens and for any-aged Shakespeare aficionados.