Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant to be read. They were meant…to be played.
What if Romeo never met Juliet? What if Juliet got really buff instead of moping around all day? What if they teamed up to take over Verona with robot suits? This choose-your-own-path version of Romeo and Juliet—packed with fun puzzles, secrets, and quadrillions of possible storylines—lets you decide where the plot goes every time you read. You might play as Romeo, or as Juliet, or as both of them at the same time. You might even unlock additional playable characters!
That’s right. We figured out how to have unlockable characters in books.
Pro – You can unlock a new romance route!, Romeo & Juliet were never so much fun, PIRATE ENDINGS
Cons – I literally can only think of one: Romeo still exists
Spoilers – As a Choose Your Own Adventure–er sorry Chooseable Path Adventure book, based on a classic play most English-speaking countries require to be read at some point in a kid’s schooling spoilers may abound. I won’t wreck the unlockable “secrets” though.
Review – Your name is Juliet (or Romeo). You live in Old-Timey Verona, where we’ve set our scene, and are either too milquetoast to tell your parents no or in love with the idea of being in love, thus setting into motion a tale of star-crossed lovers. Or not. I mean Juliet, if you just say ‘yes’ to your mother you can go and marry boring old Paul Rudd…I mean Paris and Romeo you have a chance to go and get that Rosalind girl you spend most of your opening pining after for some reason.
Or Juliet you can run off and be a pirate! Romeo you can…I have no idea what you can do otherwise, I refused to follow his path because omg he is so annoying. Juliet gets choices like “run far far away from everything for adventures” while Romeo gets “do you go chat up the girl?”.
Of course you could be that person who follows the story as Shakespeare wrote it (North helpfully has little hearts next to the choices that will lead you down that tragic angsty path). Personally I vote you say “no” as soon as you to your Mother, run away, chat up some guy at a bar, and somehow make your fortune on the high seas instead. (can you tell I love the pirate ending for Juliet?).
North plays fast and loose with the time period, the play, the characters, the character motivations, Shakespeare’s intentions and pretty much everything else you can think of for him to play fast and loose with. Even if you follow the “canon” path for R&J, North is at pains to be like “are you really sure that’s a great idea? Here’s a better one!” to tempt you towards a more satisfying ending. Its actually more of a chore to ignore his glib asides, irreverent commentary and anachronistic observations to complete the “canon” version then it is to go with the flow towards a different ending.
Each segment is short enough that if you want to play this as a party game (which I heartily recommend) you can, passing the book around to each person as choices are made. Each ending’s illustration is alternately absurd (a muscle-bound, fiercely grinning Juliet swinging a sword while in a dress!) or sweet (Juliet and a beau living in martial bliss far away from the idiots in Verona), breaking up the text. I did flounder at first with the page set-up however; this isn’t traditionally numbered. As some snippets are barely a line or more then a page, you have to be careful when moving from choice to choice to make sure you are at the BEGINNING of that choice (sometimes on the previous page).
Overall this was a fun, inventive way to spend my time. Like the OMG Shakespeare books I think they may also be a good way to get reluctant readers into the classics. Look, even though I love Twelfth Night and Midsummer’s Night Dream and Macbeth – they are NOT easy to get through. Especially if you go for the really old text and not the slightly updated so at least they don’t have weird punctuation and apostrophes everywhere text. For reluctant readers, or readers who struggle with reading due to attention span or not reading English fluently (for whatever reason), books like this can help bridge that gap.
North does a fine job of presenting the actual text (especially if you follow the canon path), while making it accessible to everyone and giving context. Paired with a unit on Shakespeare in Modern Times or some such thing, I think this could be a fine teaching tool.
Or do like me, break out the vodka (or rum) and have a ridiculously fun time with your friends. Either way, this is a winner of a book.
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Published by: Riverhead Books
Release: June 7, 2016
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