How did I get it: Little Brown sent me an ARC. Thank you!
Why did I read it: I really loved the idea of a modernization of Hamlet so I couldn’t resist.
How I would rate it: 2 out of 5 stars.
Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend’s fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course. Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia.
Review: I wanted to love this book. At first, I was positive that I would. The pace was quick, the writing was fine, and there were parts of it that I still really like. There were a lot of clever references throughout the text and exchanges of dialogue that modernized scenes from the play that were very well-done. I felt that the characters were updated in a very cool way, and I liked the idea of Ophelia being the one to dish on what had happened.
However, I feel like Falling for Hamlet sort of maybe missed the point of Hamlet because this was absolutely the most light-hearted re-telling of a tragedy I’ve ever come across and not in a good way. I understand that teens enjoy fun books. Most people do, but I don’t know if a revenge story featuring a series of murders is really the best thing to turn into some sort of teen scandal. I didn’t mind Falling for Hamlet being clever and funny,* but I didn’t feel like madness, revenge, grief, or even the gravitas of the situation was given close to enough page time.
I think that by trying to modernize and change so much of the play’s ending and events, the book never managed to have any real kind of emotional weight for me as a reader. I guess it was neat to make Ophelia something other than a sad, droopy, delicate flower and that she lived, there just wasn’t much left for Ophelia to be. She didn’t even seem to be very much in love with Hamlet, which seemed sort of bizarre to me, really. I wanted to at least be pleased that the person she wound up saving was herself, but I didn’t like her enough for that to matter. I would have much preferred to see her struggling with maybe a modernized version of the original Ophelia’s issues. It would have been more interesting, given her some actual emotional range, and made her more sympathetic/believable as a main character.
I also felt that Falling for Hamlet used italics, transcriptions, fonts, flashbacks, and time jumps over and over again in a really distracting way and one that ultimately didn’t do anything. I still can’t figure out why all these techniques were used when none of them shed any light on the situation or granted me new insight as a reader. At first, I thought having a talk show at the beginning and a police interrogation at the end of each chapter was a nifty concept. But that too became just one more way of rehashing very straightforward events and saying the same thing without actually saying much at all.
In conclusion, Falling for Hamlet is a quick read with a lot of potential that has a lot of style but not enough substance. I don’t really know who to suggest this book to, but, if you’re a fan of the original play, it’s probably worth taking a peek at.
* I loved the little details like Ophelia’s ringtone for Polonius being “Papa Don’t Preach.”