Oliver is in his fourth and final year of his program at Dellecher Conservatory for the Fine Arts. He and his classmates have been studying Shakespeare together since day one at Dellecher, and they are all at their breaking point from the intense program and pressure of their coursework. There’s Richard, larger than life antagonist whose intensity is thrilling to watch on stage but terrifying to live next to. There’s Meredith, the sexy vixen that everyone wants to be or be with. Filippa, a woman with a mysterious past who seems to always get the roles wherever there’s a need to fill in the cracks. Wren, Richard’s cousin, who always seems at the verge of falling apart physically and mentally is the girl-next-door. Alexander, leading antagonist who can still shed his roles when he leaves the stage. James, handsome and enthralling leading man who loses another piece of himself with every role. And Oliver, the person everyone loves because they either think he’s a good person or because he’s easy to push over and manipulate. Throw all of those personalities together at 22 years old coupled with an acting training program that puts everyone at the verge of a nervous break down all year long, and you’ve got a recipe for drama. (Seriously, that place is intense. If the three members of the theater faculty don’t think you show enough promise at the end of each year, you’re cut. No questions, no appeals. You’re gone.)
I really don’t know if want to be these characters and have their lives, be friends with these characters, or be the one to scream at each of them for being so terrible (except for maybe Filippa and Wren). Scratch that. I want to scream at them because I’m a reasonably responsible and moderately mature adult in his 30s. However, if I had read this book in my early 20s, I would have desperately wanted to be just like them. They’re mysterious and edgy. They do theatre. They speak to each other in verse (which is the most pretentious thing to ever be put to page). They’re, like, so cool. At least 20 year old me would have thought so. Now, I just want to tell each of them to get over themselves and make some friends outside of their one people because they’ve created an echo chamber to bounce all of their horrible qualities back at each other. (And yet, I still like each of them and want the best for them, except for Richard.)
The book itself is broken down into five acts and each act into several scenes. The five acts seem to follow Shakespeare’s own structure, and within each scene, when things get dialogue heavy, Rio switches from using the standard quotation marks to a colon as if you are reading a script. Having a working knowledge of Shakespeare’s works will help with understanding allusions throughout the novel. You don’t have to be a scholar, but as long as you know the basics of his major works, you’ll be okay. And if you do know the basics, one major plot point will be telegraphed pretty early on. However, even with that one plot point foreshadowed, the plot over all kept me on toes all the way through the very end.
Thank you again to faintingviolet for the exquisite book exchange gift.