K, so first if you haven’t read Macbeth, um, why? Go do that. Second, this book is a pretty good adaptation of it, though not perfect. Talley translates the Scottish kings, lords, and various witches into the haunted setting of a boarding school that used to be a plantation in the antebellum south. Kings become teenage girls, witches become spirits, and what was straightforward murder in the original play becomes something more complicated here.
Ultimately, this book was enjoyable, but I thought the first half was much stronger than the second, and I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t read Macbeth first. I don’t know how to evaluate this book’s success as a stand-alone story, since the main impetus for reading it was to see how Talley could pull off “lesbian contemporary YA Macbeth“. As the latter, it was mostly successful, though a few of the adaptation choices* I thought actually worked against the point of the Macbeth story.
*Specifically, I’m talking about SPOILERS the use of spirits instead of witches. In the first half of the book, I thought it worked well. The conceit of the witches in the original play is used as a tragic prophecy, so in that sense it doesn’t really matter if they are witches per se, just that our Macbeth character get the message, and then Lady Macbeth convinces him/her to act on it. That does happen here. But in the second half of the book, the spirits just become overwhelming, to the point of the school being haunted, and their machinations affecting other students. For a while there, it turns into a horror novel, ghost story, rather than a tragedy, and all the weird ghost stuff takes away a lot of the agency of the characters. Horror and fantasy and sf conceits like ghosts can be used to externalize internal conflicts, but here as that happens, I think it actually takes away from the impact of the characters emotions. Lily/Lady Macbeth being consumed by guilt is here overshadowed by her being haunted by ghosts who are taunting her with her mistakes. It just feels like the conflict and her guilt is coming too much from the outside, and I wanted it to come from within. Maria’s interactions with the ghosts I also thought went too far and detracted her from arc, as well END SPOILERS.
It was fun to see how the various plot and character points in the original play were twisted around in Talley’s version. But that was the main thing keeping me reading. Not to see where the story was going for itself. Not for the characters or the words Talley was using. All in all worth reading, but I wouldn’t push it on anybody, and it definitely isn’t as good as her first book.