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Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia.
Ophelia lives to whine another day in this mediocre MTV treatment of Hamlet.
Ophelia's been on again, off again with hot Prince Hamlet of Denmark since they were tweens. They have cautiously started up their relationship again a few short months after a tabloid published pictures of Hamlet with another girl. But just as Hamlet heads off for his second year at Wittenberg College, his father dies unexpectedly, throwing the whole country into an uproar. Hamlet starts acting strange, Ophelia worries about him, his mother Gertrude marries his uncle Claudius and, well, you know the rest. The only differences are that this time Ophelia fakes her own drowning and scores a guest spot on an Oprah-like talk show, and the final group demise takes place on a lacrosse field. At worst, this watered-down prose version that combines Ophelia's first-person voice with police transcripts and scenes from the talk show is almost certain to offend Shakespeare purists; at best, it seems superfluous. Had Ray played more fast and loose with the original, the result might have been soapy, campy fun. But by staying so close to the actual plot and taking the language down to the lowest denominator ("Screw you, Horatio"), all she does is beg comparison with The Bard, a contest very few (if any) authors can hope to win.
Unnecessary. (Fiction. 14 & up)
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Oh, thank you!” Zara shouts as she feigns surprise at the audience’s outpouring of affection and its standing ovation. She gestures for the audience members to sit down, though she smiles broadly when they continue to stand. “Please. Please,” she gestures, and since they have all been watching her for years, they know that she means business even when she’s giving a casual instruction. They settle into their seats as Zara flops precisely onto her overstuffed cream couch, smoothing her dark hair.
She leans forward and begins: “Today we have a guest who will amaze you.” She pauses to punctuate the drama and yells, “Ophelia is in the house!” Her tone sends the audience members to their feet again. They know how lucky they are to be in the audience on this day, and this is their moment to show it. The camera cuts to mostly middle-aged women in seasonal sweaters gasping, clapping, smiling. One even dabs a tear of excitement, or is it sadness? Who can tell, and who really cares? It’s a tear that some cameraman was lucky enough to capture, a cameraman who is planning, as he films, what he will buy with the bonus the segment producer will give him for catching an actual tear wipe.
The audience calms down after a last twitter and exchange of amazed glances. “Our nation has been so deeply saddened by the tragedies surrounding the royals of Denmark. Today, we will speak to Ophelia herself and find out how this young woman was caught up in the secrecy, the revenge, and the madness… madness that we all thought had consumed her.
“You are a lucky audience, indeed, to be here this afternoon. Ophelia has agreed to make one appearance, one exclusive appearance, to tell her story. So, ladies and gentlemen, here she is. Ophelia, come on out here, girl.”
Ophelia walks out onto the stage tucking her bobbed blond hair behind her ears. Her black turtleneck and jeans fit her perfectly, and she has the air of someone who looks great no matter how much time she does or doesn’t spend getting ready. She’s slim but curvy, and healthy-looking, except for circles under her wide green eyes. When she sees the crowd, she pauses to take a deep breath and raises her hand in a little wave. The crowd jumps to its feet again, and Ophelia winces. Zara reaches out an encouraging hand and guides her toward the couch. Ophelia looks at someone offstage and then looks back at the audience, clearly trying to smile. Zara, after prolonging the moment just a second longer, invites Ophelia, and therefore everyone present, to sit down.
“Welcome, Ophelia,” Zara begins, patting Ophelia’s hand.
Ophelia nods and says quietly, “Thank you for having me.”
“So, you’re not dead?”
“That… is true.” Ophelia smiles.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you will recall that on this show just a few weeks ago, we joined our kingdom in mourning what we thought was our guest’s shocking death. In fact, we will replay the video my incredibly talented staff compiled to commemorate her life, a life entwined with that of the royal family owing to her relationship with our beloved prince, Hamlet.” A montage begins: Ophelia as a newborn, Ophelia on the junior high swim team, Ophelia and Hamlet at the prom. As it plays, the music is quieted so Zara can continue. “Ophelia, we were all so amazed and relieved when you were found alive. What happened? Take us back.”
Shifting in her seat, Ophelia replies, “I really wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
[transcript #81872; Denmark Department of Investigations; interview room B; interrogators: Agent Francisco and Special Agent Barnardo] Francisco: Ophelia, you are here because you’re being investigated for treason. Ophelia: Is this a joke? Am I on one of those shows where they scare you and then film it? Okay, you got me. Barnardo: Sit down. This is no joke. Francisco: You vanish. Things go to hell. You return. Interesting timing. Ophelia: I vanished because things had already gone to hell. Barnardo: We think you conspired against the royal family. Ophelia: That’s ridiculous. I’m innocent. You have to let me go. Francisco: We don’t have to do anything. We’re the Denmark Department of Investigations. You’re ours until we are done with you. And we want to know what happened.
You wanna know the truth? Here it is. Not the truth I tell Zara or the truth I tell the DDI or anyone else. I’ll tell you, but no questions. I’ve had enough questions.
Zara leans in, looking like a schoolgirl sharing a secret. Her eyes bright and wide, she asks, “You spent a great deal of time with the royal family. What were they like?”
“Oh, you know… royal. Fairly proper. Serious. And, uh…” Ophelia looks off camera and adds, “But nice, I guess.”
Hamlet’s father had the kind of laugh that made wineglasses vibrate and clink if the staff set them too close together, and Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, loved to hear it so much that she went to great lengths to provoke it. At this moment, she was telling a story and proceeded to launch herself out of her chair to act out the punch line. The king cheered her with a “bravo,” and we all clapped. She took a little bow before kissing the king and nodding to his brother, Claudius, who was smiling but not laughing. He never seemed to laugh.
As many times as I had been in the family’s private dining room, I would always be slightly surprised to see Gertrude relaxing in track pants and without her characteristic French knot. Gertrude’s gaze met Claudius’s, and her face suddenly grew pinched. She quickly looked back at her husband as she fluffed her blond hair and sank back into her giant pink-and-gold dining chair.
Claudius glowed. “You tell a wonderful story.”
“Indeed, indeed,” the king agreed, his eyes fixed on Gertrude. The king missed Claudius winking at Gertrude, who blushed but pretended to take no notice.
I acted as if I hadn’t seen it, either. From the time I could speak, my father had told me this was my role: silent observer and keeper of secrets. He said it was the only way to survive living so close to the royals.
Claudius was creepy and seemed to dislike everyone but Gertrude. He was so different from the king, who was funny and youthful despite the wrinkles and graying hair. When Hamlet’s dad had time, he tried to see movies that Hamlet liked or listen to some of the bands we talked about. I’m sure he hated a lot of it, but he tried, you know?
The adults turned to one another to converse about some associate who told the most dreadful stories, which left Horatio, Hamlet, and me to chat. The three of us had been friends for as long as we had been alive. Horatio’s parents and my father had been advisers to the king, and we had grown up in the castle.
Ever since we were in elementary school, Horatio and I had been invited to dinners with the royal family. As an only child, Hamlet grew bored at the table, and it annoyed his parents endlessly that he couldn’t sit still and be quiet while they ate. Once we were in high school, our invitations were limited to Sunday dinners. Since the king often missed dinner with his wife and son during the week, his staff knew that Sunday was to go untouched whenever possible. In a matter of weeks, Hamlet and Horatio would leave for their second year of college, making these last Sundays more precious for us all.
“You’ve got to come visit this semester,” Horatio said to me.
“I’ll try, but you know my father.”
“And your brother.” Hamlet rolled his eyes. “Laertes is going back to grad school soon, I hope.”
I nodded. “Tomorrow, actually.”
Hamlet replied with a sigh of relief.
“He’s not that bad,” I said.
Hamlet picked up his knife and pretended to stab an invisible figure, so I added, “He’s not. Hamlet, you know I love my brother. Please don’t do that.”
Hamlet leaned over to kiss me, but I pushed him away. He grabbed my wrists and kissed me anyway. “Jerk,” I grumbled.
“Are you two dating again?” asked Gertrude from across the table, her voice dripping with disapproval.
Hamlet and I looked at each other. We had been together all summer, and it seemed odd that she hadn’t noticed. She had been so distracted during the past few months, and I fleetingly wondered again if it had something to do with Claudius.
“Are we?” I asked, somewhat amused.
“Are we?” he answered back.
“For now,” I answered, looking at Hamlet rather than Gertrude.
“What kind of nonsense is that?” bellowed the king, which made everyone except Claudius roar with laughter.
“It means, sir, that your son likes to be unencumbered when he is at school,” I answered when we had all quieted down.
“To being unencumbered,” Horatio toasted, and I threw my napkin at him.
Horatio and I would play our part in the light repartee, but both of us knew how many hours he had spent comforting me after the tabloid exposé that had led to my breakup with Hamlet in the spring.
Gertrude knitted her brow and looked at me squarely. “And where does that leave you?”
“Unencumbered as well, I suppose.”
“And have you been seeing anyone else?” she asked, tapping her sculpted fingernails on the table, her eyes narrowed.
I shifted in my seat. She was not only the mother of the only guy I had ever loved but also someone with the power to kick me out of the castle, which made the question all the more awkward. “Well…” I stalled, grabbing my glass of water and sneaking a sip before she could ask another question.
She sat very still, which I knew was the only reply I was likely to get. Gertrude had never liked my dating Hamlet, and she hated that I had hurt her son’s feelings more. When I broke up with him the last time, it took her weeks to even look at me, and Hamlet had to convince her to let me sit at her table again.
“There have been other…” I swallowed hard and didn’t look at Hamlet. He cleared his throat as he ripped a dinner roll and dropped half of it onto his bread plate, clattering the butter knife. Still feeling his eyes on me, I told her, “I’ve been asked out.…”
“But you have never brought anyone here,” she said.
I couldn’t figure out if she was being serious or not.
The king interrupted. “Gertrude, can you imagine how that date might go? Between the guards and you, I’m not sure which would be more intimidating.” The king laughed, and she joined him but eyed me suspiciously as Hamlet snickered into his wineglass, which was nearly empty.
The king turned his attention to Hamlet and said, “You are just lucky, my boy, that your flirtations have not angered your subjects. Luck can only last so long.” He jutted out his sharp chin and glared ever so slightly at Hamlet.
I looked down, a familiar hurt washing over me. I tried to push away memories of last April’s multipage spread of Hamlet and a girl sunbathing at an exclusive resort, images some of the girls at school were only too happy to have on hand for weeks afterward. Hamlet had said the pictures were taken out of context, but I still wasn’t sure how out of context a girl draping herself across him could be. Months later, my desire to punch him for whatever the context was had only slightly diminished.
Hamlet leaned back in his chair. “I’ve never cheated, and you all know it. How can I help it if the public wants to believe that I have?”
His father squinted at him. “You should know as well as anyone that perception is all. If your subjects believe you’ve cheated, you’re a cheat. They won’t trust a liar as their leader.”
Hamlet reached for the wine bottle, and his mother slapped away his hand.
“Enough talk of cheating,” she declared, her brow furrowed and her cheeks ablaze. “Why don’t we retire to the sitting room?”
We all stood and wandered toward the cozy, overstuffed couches in the next room. Hamlet put an arm around me and kissed the top of my head. I shoved him away, pretending I was kidding but taking the moment to pull myself back together. More than anything, I was kicking myself for giving credence to the whole thing. Lots of people had reasons to sell inaccurate, inflammatory stories to the press. It had happened to us before. Hamlet said it wasn’t true, and I knew I had to stop letting such things bother me if we were going to have a future together. And as for being grilled by his parents, if one planned on spending time with the royal family, one couldn’t be overly sensitive.
Hamlet pulled me onto the couch next to him and put his arm around my shoulder. I leaned into the curve of his body, and Horatio plopped down next to me.
“There are other chairs,” the king said, smiling.
“We can’t stand being apart. You know that,” answered Hamlet.
Hamlet’s father said, “Horatio, your mother tells me you’ve chosen a major.”
“Yeah. Political science.”
“Bah, politics.” The king waved his hand as if clearing the air of something foul. “All of that power, deceit, and corruption.”
“You’ve done well with politics,” Claudius said, his eyes narrowing at his brother.
The king shifted in his seat. “As have you. But we were born into our roles. If you had been able to make the choice, wouldn’t you have done something other than work for me?”
Claudius leaned forward, scratching at his beard, which was short enough to be considered overgrown stubble. “I would have been king.”
Hamlet’s father raised his eyebrows. “You know, being in charge is no picnic.” When Claudius merely sniffed, Hamlet’s father sighed and added, “Don’t be bitter. It was an accident of birth. I’m older, so I’m king. What can we do?”
Claudius ran his fingers through his thick dark hair as he glared at his brother. Then he rose and poured himself a drink.
“Dad, what would you have chosen to be?”
The king looked right at his son and said, “A florist.”
Hamlet began to laugh, and his father joined him with a sound so loud that a security guard poked his head through the door. The king waved the man away.
When he’d settled down, he asked, “Ophelia, is your passion still art?”
“No, it’s Hamlet,” whispered Horatio, and I poked him in the ribs.
I nodded at the king.
“I have that painting of yours hanging in my study.”
I took a moment to think. “The one of the unicorns and the rainbow?” I asked, amazed he still had that thing. I’d presented it, with great solemnity, when I was in the second grade, and he had received it with a bow. “I should make you a new one.”
“I look forward to it.”
The clock chimed ten, so the king excused himself to go back to his office, as he did each evening. Gertrude rose and pecked him on the cheek without comment, which was peculiar. For as long as I could remember, the king’s long hours had driven her nuts. How many times had I heard her say that her husband worked too hard, that he neglected her, and that another few hours wouldn’t change the kingdom one way or another? The tension had been worst right before Hamlet went to college. But then, to my surprise, a few months after he left, she stopped bringing it up as often, at least publicly. I wondered why.
The king’s departure was, as always, the cue for the “young people” to leave. Gertrude and Claudius would stay up talking and, even if it had not been exceptionally boring to be with the two of them, we were not welcome. What she found so fascinating about the king’s reptilian brother, I couldn’t understand.
We got in the mirrored elevator that would stop first at my floor and then continue down to Horatio’s family’s apartment. “I really meant it,” Horatio said. “You’ve got to visit Wittenberg this semester. It’s always so much more fun when you’re around.”
“You really should,” said Hamlet.
“We’ll see,” I said, walking out on my floor. “You coming?” I asked Hamlet, reaching out my hand.
“Is your brother there?” he asked, poking his head out, pretending to be scared.
“She’s right,” said Horatio. “You are a jerk.” He pushed Hamlet out with his foot and yelled, “Good night, sweet prince!”—a mockery of how I sometimes said good-bye to Hamlet. We both turned around and shushed him, laughing.
The king’s Cabinet was expected to live within the castle, as were other high-ranking officials and their most vital assistants. The two-hundred-year-old marble, gilt, and stone portion of the castle was reserved for state dinners, meetings among diplomats, and the like. That part acted as a grand facade to a twenty-story black glass building that loomed over it. The modern section housed the royal residences and included a rooftop pool and gardens, ten floors of meeting rooms and offices, and nine floors of apartments. Upper-level staff, like my father, had apartments on the north side of the building, which looked out at Elsinore’s spectacular skyline, as well as its sparkling river and harbor.
Staff apartments were on the floors directly below the royal residences. Ours had no grand lobby into which the elevator opened. By some strange design, there was not even an entry-way. The elevators just opened into our sitting rooms. Everyone in the castle knew this to be the situation, so people were careful about which buttons they pushed. In addition, one needed a code to go anywhere above the tenth floor.
Even so, with an ever-rotating staff that was often overworked or preoccupied, the chances of an error were great, so one never got the feeling of complete privacy. When we were younger, Hamlet, Horatio, and I found it funny to push all the buttons and see whom we could find in nightgowns or mid-argument. It took a few groundings to teach us that it wasn’t worth it. Every so often I was tempted to do it again but never did.
With the elevator doors closed and Horatio’s laughter fading away, Hamlet and I stood silently, checking whether it was safe to proceed. City lights streamed in through the high windows, giving the large sitting room and open kitchen an eerie blue glow. We listened a minute at the entry to my father’s hall, which branched off to the right of the elevator. We could hear my father’s snore through his closed door, and I tried not to laugh. His bedroom and study were at the opposite end of the apartment from Laertes’s and my hall, so I led Hamlet the other way. We paused again, and since we heard nothing, I kept going. Hamlet shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and sauntered behind me. Laertes’s door was open, but the light was off, so we continued into my room.
“Finally,” he said when we climbed onto my bed.
I kissed his shoulder, then his neck, then his cheek.
But he pulled back and asked, “So, who have you been seeing?”
“You told my mom you’ve been dating other people.”
“Leave your mother out of this room, please,” I said, trying to kiss him again, but he stopped me.
“No, seriously. Who?”
“It was nothing,” I said, trying to sound casual, which is precisely what it had been, anyhow. He kept glowering at me. I added, “No one you would know.”
It wasn’t true. Hamlet knew Sebastian from the lacrosse team in high school. He knew that Sebastian was in my circle of friends and that Sebastian and I were always in the art studio together. But Hamlet didn’t need to know that Sebastian took me to hear a band called the Poor Yoricks and asked me out several times afterward. I wanted to torture Hamlet after all he’d put me through, but he didn’t need details.
“Hey, we agreed: Don’t ask about last semester. This is what you wanted, so—”
“Well, I hate it.”
“Oh, you hate it? Then I am tremendously sorry,” I said with exaggerated sympathy. “Last spring, I totally should have been thinking about your feelings in case we got back together.”
He bit back a smile but then furrowed his brow and looked genuinely troubled, so I added, “Hamlet, it was nothing. If you want me to trust you, then you have to trust me. It’s not easy for me, knowing that once you’re back at school, you’ll have those girls in little skirts fawning all over you. I’m not supposed to give that any thought?”
He sat back on his haunches. “I don’t like any of them like I like you. I’ve broken things off in the past because I have been tempted… because I never wanted to cheat or lie. But honestly, Ophelia, there’s no one else for me.”
My stomach jumped a little, but I didn’t want to get too excited. I was trying to keep my emotions more in check this year. I had to protect myself.
“I think…” he started, “I want to stay together.”
Again I felt fluttery, but I could not allow myself to trust the sincerity of the sentiment. “Hamlet, you always do this. You decide one thing and then change your mind. It’s hard to know what to believe.”
“Believe that I love you.”
“Let’s try then. Let’s commit to being together.”
“If you say so,” I said, picturing Horatio’s “I told you so” face if Hamlet broke my heart again. But then Hamlet kissed me, and my fears evaporated. I sighed with happiness, thinking that this time things between us would work.
Francisco: So you were tight with the royal family. Ophelia: We spent a lot of time together. Barnardo: How much of that time did you spend plotting against them? Ophelia: None. Why would I— Francisco: Okay. Different question. You were alone with Hamlet constantly, yet your father, from what we understand, was very protective of you. Ophelia: My dad was too busy and too tired to notice what I did a lot of the time. Barnardo: So you took advantage of his schedule and his position? Ophelia: (pause) No more than any other teenager. Francisco: So that’s a yes?
Excerpted from Falling for Hamlet by Ray, Michelle Copyright © 2011 by Ray, Michelle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 22, 2011
As soon as I got this book, I dove right into and love it! I mean really, really love it. I have always been a fan Shakespeare, and I love it when author take a classic and make it modern. It makes it easy for young readers and readers everywhere to understand Hamlet but just told different.
Pretty much this book it told almost exactly to play expect of course much more modern. I love diving into this story and being Ophelia. Ms. Ray really brought this story to life by the reader being read too. The reader meets Ophelia, and she is on stage telling her story through an TV interview. I like this cause it made me feel like I was in the audience observing Ophelia and hearing her story play out for my ears. With Ms. Ray writing, it is easy to read and super easy to understand. Most people don't read Shakespeare cause of the difficulty of understanding it but Ms. Ray did a a divine job letting the reader immerse themselves in the story.
The plot line of course is pure drama. Love, hate, betrayal, death. Everything in a Shakespearean that you would normally see. I loved watching all of the characters play their roles and get into trouble. What I like the most is the love in this book. No, there is no happy ending. And the love in this book is just dreadful. But the love that was being fought for, I liked. The struggle of two star crossed lovers just trying to be normal, I loved reading.
If you liked to read a modern day Shakespearean play, with loads of drama, read this book. I can't tell you how many times I tried to put down this book but could not. My eyes refused to leave the pages that Ms. Ray presented and I devoured this book whole in one sitting!
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Posted August 14, 2011
I am such a Shakespeare freak its not funny. When I saw this in the store I had to get it and I am glad I did. Michelle Ray does a great job of taking The Bard's classic story of deception and murder and changes it up a little. Everything is seen thru Ophelia's eyes, and she is just a high school senior. More worried about what college she can get into and pursue her art ambitions, and of course, dating Prince Hamlet. It was so interesting to be dragged into Hamlet's madness and feel Ophelia's desperate attempts to keep him from going over the edge. Sadly, it all is an epic fail, but I am glad Ophelia lives in this version. She has to deal with so much sorrow but you can kinda see by the end that she might just make it through this trouble. The writing is incredible and there isn't a slow pace to the entire book. If you know the original dialog well, you can pick out certain phrases, but on the whole, the book's dialog is fresh and youthful. This is a great summer read and if you are studying Hamlet this year, pick it up and you can see a whole different side of this drama.
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Posted August 4, 2011
I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I have always loved Shakespeare. Though I admit that is has probably been over 20 years since I last read the original Hamlet. I'm always a little skeptical of modern takes on classics. Just recently, I found my husband watching what we call a "Stupid ScyFy" movie based on Moby Dick, only with a dragon instead of a whale. I had to leave the room. Chances are pretty good that I would not have chosen to read this book if it had not been sent to me for review. That would have been a real shame, because I LOVED this book.
What I liked about the book: Everything! Ophelia is a very realistic and strong character. In fact, I think she is somewhat stronger in this version than Shakespeare's original. The story is very engaging and is certainly a page turner. I liked how there were three different stories being told. There was what Ophelia told the investigators, what she told the TV host and what she told the reader. It made the reader feel as though they were getting the inside scoop. I also liked how close Ray stays to the original story. Yes, it's told in modern terms, but even after not having read the original version in over 20 years, I would have still recognized the basic story even if the names were different. Even though the story is close to the original, it focuses more on Ophelia than Hamlet. I found that to be rather interesting.
What I didn't like about the book: It felt a tad long, but I think that was because I was anxious to see how Ray was going to wrap up everything.
Just like Jane by April Lindner, this book would make for an interesting literature lesson comparing the original version with the modern version.
If you like Shakespeare, romances, or thrillers then you should give this book a try.
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Posted March 13, 2012
I love anything Hamlet. Hamlet is in fact, one of my favorite plays from Shakespeare. Some modernizations/spin offs that I’ve read in the past were a little sub-par. This one, is a modern day version of the play and it stays true for the most part, but with a few changes here and there to suit the story. I loved the way it was told. It was through a variation of television interviews (Ophelia on an Oprah type show!) and through interrogation by police/secret agents. Also to add into this, the story is told through Ophelia’s eyes. Through these three different ways of telling her story you also get different sides of her character; on the show she’s reserved and professional, she’s witty and at times snarky towards the police, and of course through other own memories and point of view is where you’ll see the ‘real’ Ophelia. It stays, for the most part, true to the play. Of course the difference being it’s been modernized to fit the setting. If you’re familiar with the play, you’ll see how certain moments are modernized yet featured in the book and it’s very well done (two scenes stood out, the limo scene with Hamlet and Ophelia - Where Hamlet goes berserk. The other scene, where King Claudius has a nasty surprise when he watches a play in action) What was also good, was Ophelia had her own circle of friends aside from Hamlet and Horatio, and with the addition of Sebastian, that added a nice little twist to things. Although I liked most of the characters in this book, Ophelia sometimes annoyed me. She was at times really whiny and needy. It got to me. Also another thing that sort of got to me, was the final act with Hamlet, Laertes, and Claudius. I don’t know, if it’s modern like it’s supposed to be, you’d expect them to come out with guns blazing, not knives hidden in lacrosse sticks. Although it’s a most creative idea, I wasn’t too keen on this part. Although it was very elegantly done. Fans of Hamlet will love this modern retelling. It was very well written, everything fit the way it was supposed to, and it stayed true (for the most part) to the original play. Although it does help if one is familiar with the original play itself to fully enjoy Falling for Hamlet.
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Posted December 23, 2012
Posted December 4, 2012
It's no secret that I adore Shakespeare. (I'm doing the Shakespeare Reading Challenge for fun.) Hamlet happens to be my favorite Shakespeare play, so when I saw that there was a modern adaption of it, I jumped on it - and when I saw that it starred Ophelia, I was more than intrigued.
Thankfully, I don't have to disown anybody for not doing the Bard justice. Michelle Ray weaves a fantastic tale, staying true to the original story while fleshing out the characters and bringing the plot into a much more relatable story.
One of my favorite bits about this book is how strong a character Ophelia is. Does she go back to Hamlet time and time again? Yes. I mean, he is the prince of Denmark, and she is an impressionable teenage girl, and she is in love with him. But she always tries to do what she thinks is right, even if it means pissing off the Queen and (newly crowned) King.
I loved the development of Horatio as Hamlet and Ophelia's best friend; I think it made a lot of sense, especially with the modern story. Hamlet was as whiny as ever, but watching his progression through the contemporary story and knowing how the classic story was a lot of fun.
I think what I'm impressed most with is how smoothly it managed to translate over to a contemporary story - lots of factors could have hindered it, but Michelle handled it really smoothly while moving it over and I couldn't find a problem with how it was written. I loved how she incorporated the police and talk shows and everything that accompanies modern life - and the scene at the end and how it played out made me laugh and gasp simultaneously.
Posted November 27, 2012
I absolutely love the story of Hamlet, but find Shakespeare difficult to read. Sure, there's The Lion King I could watch, but this modern telling of the classic story works as beautifully as the TV show Sherlock does bringing a classic into the 21st century.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 16, 2012
Posted February 16, 2012
Posted December 15, 2011
I loved this book! The author, Michelle Ray, is an amazng person and a great teacher. She was my favprite teacher last year. She is completely onsessed about Shakespere and thos book complements the Shakesperian story, Hamlet, very well. It had every aspect of the old shakesperian ages and the moody moderm high school world of today. Read it! :DWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book is a must read for any Shakespeare fan. It's a modern take on Hamlet from Ophelia's perspective and includes wonderful insight to what Ophelia went through. It also has a quite expected twist at the end.
I'll be looking forward to see what author Michelle Ray comes out with next.
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Posted August 31, 2011
I have been looking at this book for about a month when I first saw it on the selves. I couldn't dive in right away because I had to finish summer reading for my school and I had a feeling if I didn't finished it first I would never get it done. Once i finished my summer reading I went to my local Barnes and Nobles and bought this book. I finished it in four days! I'm glad I finished my summer reading first because I didn't put the book down! Whenever I had free time I was reading this! I would have burned threw this book faster but I wanted to make it last! It is defiantly a great twist on Shakespeare's Hamlet. If you enjoy Shakespeare, read this book! It has a great modern twist but keeps to the original idea.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Let me start by saying that you should not judge this book by its cover. Or by its opening lines:
"Frailty, thy name is woman." - William Shakespeare
"Willy, thy name is sexism." - Ophelia
Don't get me wrong, both have very much to do with the story (other than Hamlet's hair color on the cover), but they really make this look like a much lighter, funnier, beach read kind of book than it really is. I mean, really, how would one make an adaption of Hamlet light? Instead, this book is everything it should be; it's brooding and dark and, at times, intense. It's also narrated by a strong Ophelia who is understandably worried (and sometimes so tired/drunk she's a bit loopy - how else could one explain the flower scene?) about her boyfriend's apparent loss of sanity but who also does her best to be supportive and helpful to those around her, especially her aforementioned boyfriend and her widower father, all while trying to keep her own life together in the midst of circumstances no high school senior should have to deal with. She is so at odds with both the classic and modern versions of how we usually see the character of Ophelia. I loved it.
The story stays pretty true to the original, with one major difference that is given away on the jacket flap: Ophelia survives. The motivations behind people's actions, however, are different. The "truth," what Ophelia is telling us the readers, is book-ended by Ophelia's tell-all appearance on fake-Danish-Oprah in the beginning of each chapter and her interrogation by the Danish police at the end. These three concurrent tellings of the same story, illustrate the fabrication of what we take for "fact" from the media and the reach of a government cover-up more explicitly than that paparazzi pic on the cover ever could. On faux-prah, Ophelia is sweet, in love, heart-broken, and kind of ditzy. She's the almost princess. While being interrogated, she is bitingly sarcastic, angry, and fiercely loyal to Horatio and Marcellus, the only other people to survive the bloodbath that is this story. She's accused of being the master-mind of a plot to overthrow the Danish monarchy. In between, she's just a girl doing her best to do what's right for herself and those she loves.
Really and truly, I loved this book. It sucked me into the story and kept me on the edge of my seat even though I knew, more or less, what was going to happen. The characters were well-rounded and real in ways that Shakespeare characters usually are not. I cried when the king died. Have you ever cared about Hamlet's dad enough to even care that he's dead? I haven't. And Hamlet himself made a bit more sense, not a lot, but a bit. Giving him a happy background with Ophelia, at least in flashbacks, made their whole relationship much more believable which made it all the more crushing when he becomes cruel. Michelle Ray has managed to take a story that I already knew well and liked, and she made it into something new and original that I love. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Book source: ARC provided by the publisher.
Posted July 7, 2011
I love modern re-tellings of classics so I loved this book. I've never read the original version of Hamlet but I have seen the play so I do know the story line. Falling for Hamlet is an almost exact parallel with Hamlet, but the only difference is that it's told from Ophelia's point of view. I loved the romance between Hamlet and Ophelia and also the crossed romances. I also liked how throughtout the book you can see the interogation between her and the police and also the interview between her and a talk show host. I thought that was really cool. Towards the end the book gets really tense and tragic. It's a really sad novel but a really great re-telling of a classic Shakespearean play. If you love Hamlet and modern re-tellings of novels then this is the book for you!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 5, 2011
I was incredibly excited upon reading the synopsis; a promise of a Young Adult novel written by Michelle Ray that would be a modernized re-telling of Shakespeare's Hamlet...with a twist.
On it's arrival, I couldn't stop staring at the cover. It really had me excited to read the story and I found myself taking breaks between chapters just to look at the wonderfully detailed throne.
The story in Falling for Hamlet is uniquely told by Ophelia, or "Phee", through live television interviews, detective questionings and her own personal and in-depth point of view. Michelle Ray followed the original storyline for Shakespeare's Hamlet fairly well, aside from Ophelia still being alive, and even included the ever so often famous quotes from the play with a new modern-day twist to the wording. It was incredibly exciting to read, myself being a Shakespeare lover.
Ophelia was a fun character to read. She was a realistic teenage girl in every way and her troubles concerning Hamlet and his family forever visible. Hamlet, of course, was no longer the troubled king we'd come to know in Shakespeare's play. Hamlet was now a tall, dark, handsome and troubled teenager about to ascend the thrown after his father's death. Of course there is not only Ophelia and Hamlet in the novel, you will also come across Claudious, Horatio and so many more, all reshaped to fit today's modern and royal society.
Falling for Hamlet was quite a dramatic read; each chapter holding a new unique twist to the story that would both surprise me and excite me for what might come. Michelle Ray definitely has a way with writing modernized re-tellings. Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray is a recommended read for young adults and adults who fell in love with Shakespeare's Hamlet and for those who love fresh, modern retellings with drama, romance and twists galore. I'm hoping we'll see more from her in the near future.
First comes love, then comes madness.
Posted June 23, 2011
Never saw the play or the movie, but now I must! I couldn't read fast enough; couldn't wait to see what would happen next! Get it for yourself, for your teenagers, just get it. A tragedy was never so entertaining!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 30, 2011
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Posted April 6, 2011
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Posted February 26, 2012
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Posted March 3, 2012
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