Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray

Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
Pages: 348
Source: bought
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
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. --Goodreads
Ophelia is just your ordinary, high school student, who just so happens to be the on-and-then-off-again girlfriend of Prince Hamlet, and lives in the palace with her father, Polonius, advisor to the King of Denmark.  When Hamlet goes off to college, things seem to be complicated with their relationship.  After the King dies and Hamlet returns, Ophelia tries to console him the best she can, but when he starts talking about seeing his father’s ghost and carrying a gun around for protection, it scares Ophelia so much so to break it off with him.  Falling for Hamlet is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Almost every student’s nightmare, in either, college or high school has suffered through the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare’s sonnets and some of his most famous plays.  Well, I may be one of the few students who actually willingly enrolled in a Shakespeare class this semester, among the other brave students in the class.  Shakespeare and I have a history together, starting with Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade in high school.  When I found out about this book, Falling for Hamlet, I was so excited.  Hamlet, being one of my favorite Shakespeare pieces (Othello is one of my favorites, as well), is a play that captures the soul with Hamlet’s revenge, Ophelia’s angst, and Polonius’ craziness.  I am always on the lookout for new adaptations of the play, the last great one being Ophelia by Lisa Klein.  With this motivation, I sat down to read this book with high expectations.

Shakespeare is a classic and tough shoes to fill.  Michelle Ray did well with Falling for Hamlet, but, as much as, I loved some of the new and old characters and the new scenes, I had problems with a lot of things. 

First, let’s discuss that cover up there.  I really do not like it.  The book cover makes the character, Ophelia, appear sort of “loose” which, after reading the book, I don’t think she is at all.  Plus, why is there a nice throne floating on the side like that; the throne looks gorgeous on the spine with the title, but just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the cover pieces.  I love the little motto at the top, however: First Comes Love, Then Comes Madness.  That may have been one of the many reasons I read this book.  I wanted to see the love that was missed in Hamlet, where it mainly focuses on his revenge.

Michelle Ray seemed to be forcing quite of bit of things onto the modern setting she created, which Ray does explain as to why she did it that way.  Still, as much as I think leaving the names in their original form was best, I think it took a lot away from her modern setting.  Having both new characters with modern names and Hamlet’s characters with their original names clashed too much and took away the modern feel to it.  Also, Ray went about modernizing the text of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as well.  Some famous speeches and monologues did find their way into Ray’s novel, but she tweaked them to sound more modern.  Some of the text went well with her plot and worked brilliantly with the present times.  However, there were a few that seemed forced.  For example, if you are familiar with Hamlet then you may know of Polonius’ speech, giving advice to Ophelia: in Falling for Hamlet, that very speech (but in modern diction) is a speech that the character makes at King Hamlet’s funeral; I thought it was bit odd, placed there.

The book opened with Ophelia’s interview, after coming out of hiding.  This interview lasts the length of the whole book, as does another side conversation with Ophelia being questioned by the authorities about what really happened.  Those two dialogues are broken into with normal narrative of the actual plot that Ophelia is conveying through the two conversations.  It was confusing and made the whole book a bit slow to get into. 

I liked the ending very much.  Ophelia was one of my favorite characters in Hamlet and I just loved her more so in this adaptation.  She was strong and hopeful, dedicated and relatable.  Hamlet was interpreted differently than I would have thought.  I always see him as a sweet, but kind of a mean boy who has an attachment to his father.  Ray’s interpretation of Hamlet was so fresh and new that I wanted to continue reading to figure out what the boy would do next.  He was a player and loved to party.  I just love the endless possibilities of how everyone can see the same character in a different light.  Horatio is always a favorite of mine as well and, of course, in Falling for Hamlet, I was not really falling for Hamlet, as I was falling for Horatio because he was the best friend that I wish I had.  Horatio is the kind of guy that will stick it out with you no matter how difficult the matter and in the modern world, I loved him even more. 

Overall, Falling for Hamlet was a bit slow but definitely worth the extra sitting to read about a classic in a new light.

Rated PG-13 for sexual references, adult content, violence, and teen angst.

Cover: 3
Characters: 5
Writing Style: 3
Plot: 3
Ending: 4


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  1. I really liked Hamlet so I'll definitely have to check out this modern remake of it. Thanks of the review!

  2. I've wanted to read this book for a while but I just haven't gotten around to it. It's nice to hear good things about it. Great review!

  3. Hamlet adaptations! Ah, this does seem good- I have to find a way to read it! Great review!

    Teenage Fiction