Every so often the debate arises: Was Shakespeare a real person? Did he write the plays he is famous for? Or did he collaborate with other writers, or steal their work, or was his name just a pseudonym? Ryan North has the answer–Shakespeare stole his famous tale Romeo and Juliet from Ryan himelf. “How?” you ask. By playing North’s chooseable-adventure game. And now you can write a masterpiece, just like Shakespeare.
First, choose to play as Romeo or Juliet. Both characters are the same as in the original story, except Juliet is jacked. As in, she spends all her spare time pumping iron. Clearly Shakespeare forgot this detail when he wrote his version.
I haven’t played as Romeo yet but I’ve come across a million different endings as Juliet (on many winding paths). I don’t know if it’s possible to “finish” the book traditional sense. Though I haven’t explored every nook and cranny of the book, I still feel confident enough to recommend it. Here we go:
Not offensive to women, Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character, Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 6/6 pts
Features many women characters including Juliet, Nurse, and even Ophelia. Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test multiple times. Since I haven’t played as Romeo, I can’t say with perfect certainty that the book is not offensive to women, but I trust North based on what I’ve read so far.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts
Yes on both counts. It’s super fun to choose where to go next. I/Juliet have ended up married, single, dead, a pirate…the possibilities feel endless. I’ve found you get farther if you follow the path Shakespeare took…at least for a while. There are also “side quests” as other characters.
North’s sense of humor is perfectly over the top and paired with a plethora of artists to illustrate Juliet and Romeo’s journeys. I recommend picking up this book and reading to an ending and then setting it down and coming back to it again and again.
Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts
The reason Romeo and/or Juliet scores 5/5 here is for the agency given Juliet. Yes, a choose your own adventure book is the illusion of agency, but the character is given a variety of happy endings, many of which affirm the idea that Juliet does not need to be with a man to be happy. Or, she does, but she dates him for longer than a few days. The story pokes gentle fun at the original play, gender roles, dating and more. And it gets comically ruthless , especially when Ophelia enters the scene.
My recommendation? Read a million times. It’s like reading a million feminist potentials.
Overall: 15/15 on the Scale.
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