I was in my local bookstore recently and had three books in my hand. I was ready to check out. Ready to leave. Walking casually-yet-with-purpose along the shelves toward the front of the store to check out. An old man was behind the register, and another old man had just left his coffee on the counter. And I spotted them.
Chooseable-path adventure books. . . SHAKESPEARE EDITION.
What the hell?
I dropped my books and grabbed them. One was based off of Hamlet, and the other Juliet and Romeo. After skimming quickly I decided these were the best option, so I quickly put my books back where I found them, grabbed these, and bought them before I could second-guess my decision.
*I’d just like to note that, as I’m writing this, I just realized I have acquired a $25 visa gift card and can definitely use that to go buy one of the books I originally wanted. Hell yeah. Now let’s continue.*
These books are weird. There’s art inside them, but every page is filled with numbered paragraphs. You get to CHOOSE THE CHARACTER YOU PLAY AS. How fun is that, fellow Shakespeare nerds?
This is not technically a book review. I decided to play the book as Juliet twice and Romeo twice. Both times playing each person I decided to begin the story the same way and then try to change my outcome, rather than taking two completely different adventures altogether. Obviously I’ll do that on my own time later and be sure to update you all on Twitter about how that goes. I’ve skimmed a couple of the endings (by accident but also on purpose) and they are definitely interesting.
The first time I played as Juliet I ran away from home, went to a bar, beat up some gross drunk dudes, got drunk myself, went to my parents’ party and threw up all over myself, then woke up the next morning hungover and in the same predicament. The second time I played as her, I still went to the bar and got drunk but I drank some water to sober up before running home to the party, where I met a nice man and we fell in love and broke up a few years later but it was still a happy romance and better than dying, right?
The first time I played as Romeo I decided to sneak into the Capulet’s house while Benvolio spied on my parents, then tried to hide by pretending to be a wall in the middle of a hallway by putting my hands above my head and standing still. The guards killed me. I shit you not, I’m not making this up. I’m a writer but I’m not THAT creative.
The second time I played as him, I still snuck into their home and disguised myself as a maid. I ran into Juliet and we fell in love and decided to make out and get married. But instead of just getting married in secret, she took me to her parents and announced that she was going to marry me, and her parents said that would definitely solve the family feud problem so they let it happen. And we got married and nobody had to die.
So, some interesting endings. And those are among the most mundane of the ones I saw when skimming.
The thing about this book is that it also includes the original storyline. Like, when you’re choosing your path, there are tiny little hearts with smily faces on them next to the option that will take you on the journey the original play takes. And there are snippets here and there in the storylines where actual lines from the play are included, so you’re still getting to read Shakespeare at some point.
I thought the two paths I ended up going down where interesting because they really spoke true of the characters, at least how I see them. Romeo is a dumbass, and Juliet is powerful (in this book she is obsessed with lifting weights because her parents don’t let her do anything fun) while also wanting to go against what her parents want for her (so she goes and gets drunk and ruins their party).
Is this book better than the play? No. I mean, duh. Come on. It’s actual Shakespeare vs. some guy who I’m pretty sure writes comics or something. But it is super fun if you appreciate Shakespeare, and even if you don’t like Shakespeare, you can read this book. The way you interpret it is what matters. Somehow I feel like this book is appreciating Shakespeare, but also totally making fun of him and his characters at the same time. But I like it.
I recommend the book, but that’s not the point of this post. I just want people to be aware that this option is out there. Not that it’s really comparable to the play, but I can at least attest that it portrays the characters in a way that is true to their original selves. Romeo will always be a dumbass who would definitely get himself killed by disguising himself as a WALL, and Juliet is a powerful angel girl who I love and would protect with my entire heart.
As a final note, I want to say that this was originally going to be a compare/contrast type of deal for you guys, so you could really see all that you’re getting out of each book and decide which one you would rather go with. But I ended up not liking that idea, because to me this isn’t an either/or situation. They both feel like supplemental readings for each other. Plus, there are way too many storylines and outcomes in this book to really do a compare/contrast, because I could never read them all so I’d surely end up missing things that would prove myself wrong. And that just felt silly. This was more of an experiment, to let you guys know this exists and whether or not it’s fun. And it is! So enjoy.