cover image Hamlet Is Not OK

Hamlet Is Not OK

R.A. Sprat. Penguin, $15.99 paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-14-377927-8

Sixteen-year-old Selby Michaels isn’t a reader, something that her bookish family—which also owns the town’s local bookstore—has never understood. Her parents are especially irate when they find out she hasn’t been handing in school assignments. Much to Selby’s dismay, they insist on hiring her older brother’s nerdy best friend Dan, 18, to tutor her. When reading Hamlet aloud, Selby and Dan suddenly find themselves transported into the world of the play. Upon meeting the titular protagonist, Selby can immediately tell that Hamlet is very much not okay and worries about the violence that both the figure and the play seem to promise. Meanwhile Dan, who’s thrilled to be inside Shakespeare’s imagination, is happy to continue Selby’s tutoring as the duo navigate what comes next. Selby’s frustration at feeling invisible in her small Australian town feels palpable, and her passion for decreasing Hamlet’s body count is enjoyably odd. By employing chatty prose, Sprat (the Friday Barnes series) compellingly presents the play—and the extra-literary complications of dealing with an angry and depressed Hamlet and a heartbroken Ophelia—making for a cleverly pleasant modern take on Shakespearean themes and humor. Selby is white; Dan is of Zimbabwean descent. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. (Mar.)