Another Rotten Review

>> Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Something Rotten has gotten another good review, this one from the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, or the BCCB. The BCCB showed the love for Samurai Shortstop last year, giving it one of its two starred reviews. No star this time, but a very good review nonetheless:

As the title and subtitle hint, this mystery story is a revisioned Hamlet, here set in Denmark, Tennessee, the home of Horatio’s boarding-school friend Hamilton Prince. The sudden death of Hamilton’s father, owner of the lucrative Elsinore Paper Plant, and the swift remarriage of Hamilton’s mother to her former brother-in-law has Hamilton suspicious; it doesn’t help that he’s still hung up on townie Olivia, who’s the daughter of the Prince family lawyer and who’s convinced that Elsinore has been covering up its dangerous and illegal pollution of the Copenhagen River. The overlay of Raymond Chandler onto the contemporary Shakespeare plot adds unnecessary gimmickry, but it does make Horatio’s narration teen-appealingly snarky, and the rest of the story capably accentuates the elements likely to intrigue the YA audience: adult dishonesty, youthful disaffection, troubled romance. There’s a hint of Chinatown as well as Chandler in the industrial pollution plot, but Gratz deftly uses that story to energize the updated Hamlet, as his alterations (Hamilton wavers between feigned and real alcoholism rather than madness, while the final face-off is a public hearing rather than a duel) are adroit and effective. The snappy patter and friendship-centered drama make this readable in its own right, and it would serve multiple curricular purposes by giving readers a chance to discuss the reasons behind the variants (Gratz kindly provides his main characters with a more hopeful ending than Shakespeare) and to gain additional understanding from viewing the plot at a different angle. Readers will find this enjoyable as a pleasure read and surprisingly painless as a curricular entry, and if the subtitle suggests sequels rather than “The rest is silence,” can you really regret the continued crime-fighting adventures of Horatio and Hamlet?

My favorite phrase from the whole piece, of course, is "surprisingly painless." I think I'll use that as an advertising teaser for the book from now on . . .


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