Friday, December 27, 2013

A Wounded Name - YA Book Review

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Dot Hutchison's A Wounded Name takes the characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet and attempts to bring them into a modern-day setting. The story is told through Ophelia's point of view, however, and in this version, Ophelia is a 16-year-old attending a prestigious and somewhat outdated private boarding school where her father works. Dane (Hamlet) is her sort-of-boyfriend, and his father is the headmaster of the school. When the headmaster dies and Ophelia starts seeing his ghost haunting the campus cemetery, things begin to take a turn for the crazy, and well, if you've read or seen Hamlet, you know the rest.

First, the good. The author's writing style is very poetic and flowery. She did a great job of capturing Ophelia's tortured soul and describing the ghostly scenery of the school grounds.

That said, at times the descriptions of the school, the dialogue, and the clothing that the students and adults are wearing did little to make me believe this was actually happening in present day. You can't just mention cell phones and computers one time and then go back to talking about corsets and stays and quoting Shakespearan dialogue verbatim. The school itself lent nothing to the idea that this was taking place in a modern-day setting either. There was a sort of archaic sensibility to the school, a notion that women should be seen and not heard, which I guess the author needed to help explain the actions of some of the adult characters. You know, they are set in their old ways, blah blah blah. But if this is taking place in 2013, how old are the adults that they are stuck in the 1950s?

As pretty as the author's writing is, I also wish that the dialogue had been modernized a bit. No way do kids today speak like Victorian Englishpeople. And the use of Shakespeare's dialogue was a little off-putting. I mean, this book is for ages 12-18. I didn't read any Shakespeare until my Honors Brit Lit class senior year of high school when I was 17/18. I took a Shakespeare class in college, and I still don't understand half of what the characters are saying. You really think a 7th grader is going to follow this?

This brings me to the last thing that put me off with this book. The relationship between Ophelia and Dane is nothing if not abusive and controlling. Ophelia, wanting to help Dane through his grief over losing his father, basically lets Dane treat her however he wants, even if that means leaving her bruised and bloody and having his way with her. And Ophelia is all, "Oh, it's okay. I have to bear his pain for him." Uh, says who? Come on, Ophelia. Be a modern girl and grow a pair.

Reading the chapters that detailed Dane and Ophelia's interactions reminded me a bit of Fifty Shades of Grey only with less description. Since when did today's women decide that being abused physically and verbally by a cute guy (no matter how cray-cray he is) is romantic and indicative of love? Since when is it fun to be used? If that's what you ladies out there are looking for in your relationships, well, then I'm really sorry for you. And to the 7th graders who are reading this book, aim higher. PLEASE.

Basically, I liked the idea of this novel, but it didn't meet its full potential.

A Wounded Name is published by Carolrhoda Lab and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

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