In this debut YA novel, the Bard of Avon’s words become commonplace when a 12-year-old boy can’t stop speaking them.
Emma Malcolm narrates the tale of how her best friend and fellow nerd, Peter Marlowe, was hit on the head with a copy of The Riverside Shakespeare and suffered a minor concussion along with other, much stranger symptoms. Once in the ambulance with Emma, he greets the EMTs with the comment, “For this relief, much thanks,” followed by, “Alack, what noise is this?” From then on, he responds to everything with relevant quotes from all of Shakespeare’s works. He doesn’t understand why this has happened to him; he doesn’t even know anything about Shakespeare. Only in his English class, where he and Emma are preparing to perform scenes from Romeo and Juliet, are his quotes appreciated. His English teacher has been encouraging the students to become more familiar with Shakespearean language, also known as Early Modern English, so that they can relate to the universal and very contemporary themes and plots. But most people, particularly his peers, are not impressed, and they now find Peter even odder than they already did. Fortunately, he’s able to text in conventional English, so Emma becomes his translator and constant companion. Conveniently, she’s to play Juliet to his Romeo in the class production. Concerned and frustrated by his inability to communicate, Peter and his parents schedule appointments with various specialists, but once the media gets wind of Peter’s affliction, he becomes newsworthy, culminating in an appearance with Matt Lauer and Al Roker on The Today Show. The story reaches a happy conclusion that features an unconvincing middle school romance. The book serves as an effective portal for early teens to become comfortable with the archaic, Shakespearean language, and the author pulls off a clever ploy by placing all quotes in context—“ ‘Are you ready for some English?’ Ms. Hastings sang (in the same way they used to start Monday Night Football).” As such, readers should have no problem understanding unfamiliar words and phrases. In the endnotes, all the quotes are identified and cited, making the entire book a useful teaching tool.
An engaging, fanciful tale of a boy who inadvertently brings the beauty and majesty of Shakespeare into everyone’s lives.