I was intrigued by That Way Madness Lies, as I’ve been studying Shakespeare for a while now and wanted to see how modern writers would interpret these classic stories and put their own distinct twist on them! The representation of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC characters also promises an interesting and refreshing update on what we may expect from Shakespeare.
This review originally appeared on The Nerd Daily.
Fifteen acclaimed YA writers put their modern spin on William Shakespeare’s celebrated classics!
West Side Story. 10 Things I Hate About You. Kiss Me, Kate. Contemporary audiences have always craved reimaginings of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. Now, some of today’s best writers for teens take on the Bard in these 15 whip-smart and original retellings!
Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining The Merchant of Venice), Kayla Ancrum (The Taming of the Shrew), Lily Anderson (As You Like It), Patrice Caldwell (Hamlet), Melissa Bashardoust (A Winter’s Tale), Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (Much Ado About Nothing), Brittany Cavallaro (Sonnet 147), Joy McCullough (King Lear), Anna-Marie McLemore (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Samantha Mabry (Macbeth), Tochi Onyebuchi (Coriolanus), Mark Oshiro (Twelfth Night), Lindsay Smith (Julius Caesar), Kiersten White (Romeo and Juliet), and Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (The Tempest).
TW: racism, anti Semitism, neo Nazism, white supremacy, sexual assault, fire, blood, death, murder, stabbing, police brutality, physical abuse, emotional abuse, car accident, miscarriage, suicide
That Way Madness Lies is a spectacular, spell-binding Shakespearean collection that you will fall deeply in love with. Every writer harnesses the essence of the original tale, but offers a fresh and brilliant new take through their own unique lens.
Dahlia Adler’s introduction serves a great way to set the scene for the magical menageries of tales that are to follow. It reminds us of Shakespeare’s enduring influence and in our everyday language but also acknowledges how the canon only represents certain groups, therefore through reimagined, we can open our stories to be more diverse and inclusive. The timelessness of Shakespeare’s themes should be reflected in every reader being able to see themselves in his vast range of characters.
Kicking off the anthology is Severe Weather Warning by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, which is inspired by the Tempest. This was a cute, romantic tale with believable tensions and subplots worthy of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. It’s such a human tale of miscommunication and squandered opportunities. Shipwrecked by Mark Oshiro then follows on and it’s inspired by Twelth Night. I really loved the representation in this story and how Oshiro deftly wove the different narrators together. Yet again, the wish for communication and romantic entanglements were pulled off so well. This is a really funny, sweet and casually queer story. Next up was Taming of the Soul Mate by K. Ancrum, which was inspired by Taming of the Shrew. Ancrum had such a strong concept and unique way of reimagining the story. You’re left feeling like this is just the beginning of a new tale that would be amazing to see fully expanded in its own books someday.
Continuing this extremely strong anthology was King of the Fairies by Anna Marie McLemore, which was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As ever, their writing is just so gorgeous and ethereal. The discussion around colonialism, racism and finding your own community was so impactful too. When the book was first announced, I was intirgued to see how The Merchant of Venice would be reinterpreted. I Bleed by Dahila Adler is such a well written reclamation of a tale that has roots in strong anti Semetic ideology and Adler flips the tale on its head, allowing for more three-dimensional and nuanced Jewish representation. We Have Seen Better Days by Lily Anderson (inspired by As You Like It) was an interesting, entertaining and moving coming of age story, while Some Other Metal by Amy Rose Capetta and Cory McCarthy (inspired by Much Ado About Nothing) was both brilliantly cosmic and hopelessly human at the same time. Both perfectly captured the essence of the original story.
Brittany Cavallero took a different approach with His Invention, which was inspired by Sonnet 147. This was a truly dark and disturbing story, reminiscent of an encased gem attempting to escape from the narrative. Kirstin White’s use of multi media to convey her retelling of Romeo and Juliet, with an inspired title of Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow by Kristin White, was so interesting and really brought a modern feel to a timeless tale of forbidden love. Personally, Dreaming of the Dark by Lindsay Smith (inspired by Julius Caesar) was a blood-drenched, enthralling and dark story that left an indelible mark on my heart. It delved into death, magic and vengeance in really unexpected and twisted ways.
The Tragedy of Cory Lanez: An Oral History by Tochu Onyebuchi, which was inspired by Coriolanus, was a powerful, timely story that sadly we’ve heard echoed over and over again in the media. The way we saw fragments of Cory through the narratives of others was thought-provoking and left the reader responsible for piecing it together.
Out of the Storm by Joy McCullough, inspired by King Lear, changes the entire narrative of the play from pitting women against each other to slowly exposing Lear as the abusive and controlling tyrant he was. There’s this bond of sisterhood that emerges slowly and cautiously, but it is undeniably there. From there, we dived into Hamlet in Elsinore by Patrice Caldwell, which was an epic, Gothic and empowering tale, complete with supernatural touches and even some vampiric creatures. Continuing the dark theme was We Fail by Samantha Mabry, inspired by Macbeth, which added a completely new dynamic to a story you know so well. Finally, Lost Girl by Melissa Bashardoust, inspired by The Winter’s Tale, was just a gorgeously written story that was beautiful in every way.
Overall, That Way Madness Lies exemplifies the brilliance of modern reimaginings of classic stories. Each tale is a gem in the glittering crown of this anthology, which is one of the best anthologies I’ve read.