Everyone is familiar with Shakespeare’s tragic romance, Romeo and Juliet. It’s the classic tale of star-crossed lovers, a dramatic play that’s spurred masses of stage and screen adaptations, with varying degrees of success. Rarely do those adaptations divert very far from the source material.
Reworking Shakespeare in an entirely different way is bestselling author Ryan North, whose latest novel, Romeo and/or Juliet, puts the fate of the teenage lovers and their traditionally warring families in the reader’s hands. The ‘chooseable-path adventure’ might seem like a bit of a gimmick from the outside, but I was hooked after just a few pages.
With hundreds of possible storylines, awful puns and clever illustrations, North has created a book that’s witty, relevant and endlessly entertaining. Of course, it has all the romance, sparring and bad decision-making you’d expect with such a tale, but it’s all delivered with a hearty dose of irony and smile inducing, satirical dialogue.
As fun as it is, Romeo and/or Juliet requires a patient reader. At page 92 of 476, I already found myself at the end of the story, meaning I had to go back to the first page, choose a different tack and start again. I could be reading this book until I’m old and grey and still have storylines to spare.
Much like North’s Kickstarter funded To Be or Not to Be (which, you guessed it, was a retelling of Hamlet), Romeo and/or Juliet is a unique way of storytelling that will particularly appeal to a younger generation who find Shakespeare a little stuffy and archaic.
Juliet needn’t be the lovesick damsel, risking it all for a boy. In fact she doesn’t even need to meet Romeo in the first place. The choice is yours!
Romeo and/or Juliet was published by Orbit on 10 November 2016