cover image Hamlet


John Marsden, . . Candlewick, $16.99 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-4451-2

Near the end of this retelling of one of Shakespeare's most famous works, Hamlet realizes he doesn't want to create a new world, he just wants to “tweak it a little.” Indeed, Australian author Marsden (Out of Time ) retains the familiar series of events (though more time transpires) as Hamlet progresses into madness, while adjusting the setting (the opening scenes are of teenage Hamlet playing soccer with Horatio) and incorporating unsettling but illuminating sexual and psychological undercurrents that highlight the rottenness in Denmark. Marsden occasionally invokes the present through mentions of dress (Hamlet wears black jeans) and colloquialisms (sore bums), but otherwise the story retains the modes of address and social norms of an older time. What he does remarkably well is to seamlessly insert original passages—“ 'There's a divinity that shapes our ends,' Horatio muttered, 'rough-hew them how we will,' ”—and to retain the feel of Shakespeare's tale with skilled paraphrase. Readers will need to be familiar with the original to get certain references, but Marsden's is a riveting version that might just lead reluctant readers to the Bard. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)