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Review: If We Were Villains - M.L. Rio


Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller Published: Flatiron Books, April 2017

My Rating: 5/5 stars

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages" - William Shakespeare

If We Were Villains is often described as the theateric, YA-equivalent of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and I can honestly say that I think it deserves that comparison. It is a novel about the dark side of academia, obsession and the social isolation that elitism can bring.

The curtain opens to Oliver, a man who's recently been released from prison after a ten year sentence for a crime in his past. Upon his release, he finally opens up about his story, to the detective who was in charge of his case at the time. He tells the story of 7 young Shakespeare actors, for whom the line between on-stage and off-stage begins to blur. 7 talented, but impressionable young people, who end up playing the same roles over and over, no matter whether there's an audience or not. Alexander, the Villain

Filippa, the Extra

James, the Hero

Meredith, the Femme Fatale

Wren, the Ingénue

Richard, the Tyrant

and Oliver himself, forever the Sidekick

These 7 actor take part in a dangerous play. One that has an ending as inevitable as the famous tragedies of Shakespeare himself. One that will end with the curtain falling, perhaps for more than one of them, for good...

If We Were Villains actually took me by surprise. Until about half way trough I was thinking this was going to be a 4, maybe 4.5 star read for me. Then the ending came, and solidified the fifth star for me. This was such a clever, and masterfully constructed novel, that upon finishing it, I almost wanted to start it straight over to see everything I missed. There is so much to think about and so many parallels to Shakespeares work, that for every flaw I could find about it, I somehow feel the author had a deliberate reason to let things play out in this way.

Also: can we just remember this is a debut... Take your bow miss Rio: a standing ovation from me awaits you!

At this moment, I don't feel like going full in-depth on the story, out of fear of spoiling something, but also because I need some time to think on it, and possibly even reread parts.

If you would like me to do a full review/analysis in the future, please do let me know and I might still do that. For now I just want to say: if you like Shakespeare, (classic) theater and/or The Secret History by Donna Tartt: don't miss If We Were Villains .


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