I’ve been on a bit of a Shakespeare kick lately, what with finally getting around to watching the David Tennant/Patrick Stewart Hamlet, starting Slings and Arrows, and reading Elizabeth LaBan’s The Tragedy Paper*. So when I realized that last month’s Exposure, the second book in Kim Askew and Amy Helmes’ Twisted Lit series, was a re-write of Macbeth, obviously I had to read it, and read it POST-HASTE. (Coincidentally, it also connects back to my revelation about Jacquelyn Mitchard’s involvement in the YA world: Mitchard is the editor in charge of the book’s imprint.)
One of my favorite things about Shakespeare has always been that his stories can be re-imagined and re-told in pretty much any imaginable environment (including space!). And Exposure proves that his over-the-top crazypants plots work especially well in the high school setting, and even MORE SO when the characters go the chest-pounding, scenery-chewing route. It’s not a strict retelling—it’s far less bloody, for one, and not nearly as tragic (some of the major characters even get happy endings!)—and it does have flaws, but it’s mostly good fun.
Obviously, it won’t be to everyone’s taste—if the dialogue and self-conscious PASSION of teen television dramas from the ’90s make you cringe, I’d advise steering clear. Additionally, even I—a huge fan of all things soap-operatic—had a few issues. For one, Skye is an outsider—one of those beautiful-but-awkward girls, you know the type—who watches the drama play out between Craig MacKenzie (her crush), his girlfriend, Beth, and Craig’s best friend, Duncan. After (spoiler!) Duncan’s death, Skye swans all over the place worrying that in not coming forward with the very little she knows (seriously, she has, like, NO CONCRETE INFORMATION), that she’ll be an accessory to murder. Or something. Except...since she doesn’t really KNOW anything, that whole thread feels like a unsuccessful attempt at bumping up the tension. Secondly—and for me, much more problematic—was the casting of the three witches: They’re the only characters described as being of Yup’ik heritage, and using them to convey the prophecies smacked of exoticization and Othering.
Despite the flaws, though, I’m certainly planning to seek out Tempestuous, the first book in the series. (Yes, it’s based on The Tempest.)
A few other related titles:
Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, by Lisa Klein: Lady Macbeth’s secret daughter? Raised by the three witches? SIGN ME UP.
Kill Shakespeare, by Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery & others: I’ve been meaning to get to this comic—about a group of Shakespeare’s characters teaming up and searching for the one man (GUESS WHO?) who can help them defeat their enemies—for ages.
Something Wicked, by Alan Gratz: The second Horatio Wilkes mystery—the first one re-told Hamlet—is a clever, tongue-in-cheek, noir-ish version of Macbeth set in Tennessee. I continue to live in hope for another installment of this series.
Scotland, PA: It’s Macbeth. SET IN A ‘70s FAST-FOOD RESTAURANT. Need I say more? (Okay, fine, I will: CHRISTOPHER WALKEN PLAYS MACDUFF. I rest my case.)
*I enjoyed the LaBan quite a bit more than Kirkus’ reviewer did, by the way!