srsly Hamlet by Courtney Carbone (2015)


It’s Shakespeare…in text messages. I’m amazed nobody tried this sooner.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages: 128 (for ISBN 9780553535389)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, retellings, text

Tone/Style: chatspeak

Pace: fast

Topics: murder, ghosts, royalty

Themes: revenge, indecision, parent/child relationships, suicide, death, action vs. inaction

Summary: Hamlet, one of the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts?!
Imagine: What if Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and the tragic Ophelia had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this fun and funny adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays!
A kingdom on the brink of war.
A stolen throne.
A boy seeking revenge.

and h8. The classics just got a whole lot more interesting. ;)

tl;dr A Shakespeare play told through its characters texting with emojis, checking in at certain locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for hip theater lovers and teens. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Literature lovers with a sense of humor and a knowledge of chatspeak will be rotfl at this book. This may be a good way to introduce the story to someone who is too young to read Hamlet or is having trouble comprehending it. Knowledge of the original play isn’t necessary, but it does make the jokes funnier.

Who won’t like this book?: This is a divisive concept. Online reviews for the book are full of literary purists who feel this is a dumbing-down of great literature. Kids probably won’t care about that, though. They might care that the texts don’t quite reflect what real texting is like. The book uses emojis for everything it possibly can, including just about every noun. Texting like this irl would take forever. It works as an artistic form, but might not work for kids seeking realism.

Other comments: The author clearly knows her Shakespeare and works hard to capture the play’s essence (as well as famous lines and soliloquies) in this new format. I never once felt this was denigrating Hamlet. In fact, I think Shakespeare, with his love of wordplay and often irreverent humor, would approve of Carbone’s work.

In response to those who feel this book’s existence is a crime against literature: this is not meant to replace the real Hamlet. I would never suggest that someone read this INSTEAD of Hamlet. But if it can help someone connect with or understand Hamlet who otherwise might not have, isn’t that a good thing? And isn’t humor a great way to demonstrate that literature is fun? I think the fact that Hamlet translates so well into text proves the timeless quality of Shakespeare’s work.

Sequel(s): Obviously there are no sequels, but there are three other plays in the OMG Shakespeare series: Macbeth #killingit (2016) (by Carbone), YOLO Juliet (2015), and A Midsummer Night #nofilter (2016) (by Brett Wright). According to Goodreads Wright is also coming out with a title in fall 2016 called Scrooge #worstgiftever.

Readalikes: Aside from the original Hamlet and the other books in the OMG Shakespeare series, readers may enjoy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher. There’s also a slew of graphic novel adaptations and modern English retellings to choose from.

-Kylie Peters


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