What do Shakespeare, Clueless, and Punk’d have in common? This novel.
Cass, a Springsteen-loving white actress from New Jersey, just landed her pre-college dream job playing the lead in Taming of the Shrew at Vermont’s premier outdoor Shakespeare theater, which comes with the added bonus of escaping the aftermath of her parents’ tumultuous divorce. Much as 10 Things I Hate About You does on film, Strohm’s latest novel (Confederates Don’t Wear Couture, 2013, etc.) deftly fuses Shakespeare’s play about the battle of the sexes with pop culture and romantic comedy. Since the aforementioned play is actually performed onstage here rather than merely referenced, readers become audience members, drawn into the beauty of the Bard’s language and the zaniness of backstage drama. A car accident becomes a meet-cute with a sarcastic and infuriating New Yorker, who turns out to be Drew, her leading man in the upcoming production. To teach him a lesson, Cass decides to “tame” Drew by playing pranks on him, much as his character does to hers. While the plot outcome is to be expected, a novel of this sort is more about the journey than the destination, and Cass and Drew’s repartee makes the journey well worth taking. What this breezy novel captures particularly well is the joy of theater, which lets you “lose yourself in someone else’s life.” While the cast is not notably diverse, it does include many recognizable theater types.
Lighthearted and fluffy, this is both a wonderful immersion in Shakespeare and a great beach book. (Fiction. 14-18)