Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life by Dani Jansen - NO

The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life by Dani Jansen, 304 pages. Second Story Press, 2020. $14 

Language PG13; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G. 



12th grader Alison Green wants to be valedictorian. It is her primary focus. Hoping to ingratiate herself with a teacher on the selection committee, Alison agrees to be the producer of the school Shakespeare play. With no theater experience, Alison convinces her sister and friends to help her navigate the difficult task of putting on a show. Alison is also a lesbian who came out to her family, but not to her friends or schoolmates. However, when her best friend's crush asks Alison out for a date, she accepts, intending to turn the date into a meeting for him and her friend, but it backfires. Now the boy is mad at her and so is her best friend. When Alison's crush Charlotte lands the lead in the school musical, Alison thinks that maybe staying in the closet isn't helping her find happiness. 

I was so excited to read The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life because I am a drama teacher. I just can't get past handing over the production side of a school play to an inexperienced student with zero adult support. Of course it made for some funny situations, but the effect on the actors, the audience and school was unnecessary and irresponsible. I also didn't like the stereotypical representation of the theater and stage crew kids. Although the characters are high school, it reads more like a middle school farce. I really liked the other storyline. Alison deciding to be out and comfortable with her sexuality; it was interesting, timely and sweet. Too bad it was overshadowed by chaotic rehearsals, a self centered director and a community theater bent on shutting down the high school production. The theater community isn't like that. Having a hard time recommending this.

Lisa Librarian

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