Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, Erin Dionne

I hadn't figured out a way to stop time, join the circus or make myself invisible. I hadn't been able to contract a serious (but not life-threatening) illness, change my identity, or get into the witness protection program. I hadn't even been able to talk my mother into staying home or waiting in the car. Instead, I had to follow Mom- dressed like an Elizabethan-era superhero with purple velvet cloak billowing and bells a'tinkling- down the hall. I had to escort my sister to the main office. I had to act like this was normal.

I always find something surprising when I'm browsing. The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet was one of those books. I picked it up, and ended up loving it...most of it. "All Hamlet Kennedy wants is to be a normal eighth grader. But with parents like hers - Shakespearean scholars who actually dress in Elizabethan regalia . . . in public! - it's not that easy. As if they weren't strange enough, her genius seven-year-old sister will be attending her middle school, and is named the new math tutor. Then, when the Shakespeare Project is announced, Hamlet reveals herself to be an amazing actress. Even though she wants to be average, Hamlet can no longer hide from the fact that she- like her family - is anything but ordinary."

I loved almost everything about this novel except for Hamlet herself (sometimes). I didn't like how she was so embarrassed by her sister's smartness, though I could easily see how she was embarrassed by her parents, who are over-the-top. Also, I wouldn't exactly call Hamlet ordinary- more like below average. Her ignorance in certain areas astonished me. And she's my age. I'm certainly not a genius, but I'd like to think I'm a smart person. I at least know who Jackson Pollock is. Also, aren't you supposed to take pre-algebra in seventh, not eighth grade? What is education coming to? And Hamlet's so unwilling to be herself for much of the book; she is part of the proverbial "fit in" class of students. She tries not to distinguish herself, so her much of her year is horrible, because so many things happen that distinguish her, in positive and negative lights.

 I loved the format of this sometimes funny book though; "scenes" are written in play format, sometimes what really happens, and sometimes what Hamlet is imagining. Don't worry though; the whole book isn't like that. Just a few pages at most. But they're really amusing.

I loved Dezzie, Hamlet's genius sister. She is a genius; she's practically an expert on everything. Her speech is a bit stiff and she doesn't have much experience socializing, but she was amazing. I'd probably get along well with her, though it would be a bit embarrassing to have a seven year old know more than you do. But. We could have awesome discussions about literature. 

I just loved the way the book ended. It felt just right, and it was pretty hilarious too. Saber and Mauri, the two "villains" of this book, get their comeuppance, and it was sweet revenge, though I predicted it beforehand. I do find it a bit hard to believe that even the stupidest of eighth graders would believe that Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, and Mozart all lived at the same time (as Shakespeare). And submarines? Oh please. Completely unrealistic, but totally satisfying. I would highly recommend this easy and excellent book. I, for one, didn't want it to end.

Read The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet:
  • if you like realistic fiction
  • if you like books set in middle/high school
  • if you like Shakespeare
290 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

1 comment:

  1. I would think she would be jealous of her sister not embarrassed. Secretly she's jealous. I've seen this book around before and I'm surprised you rated it so highly. It must be good! I actually like Shakespeare's stories and I have read a kind of retelling or story about Much Ado About Nothing.