The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life
by Dani Jansen
Publishing House: Second Story Press
Upcoming Release Date: Sept. 22nd, 2020
Alison Green, desperate valedictorian-wannabe, agrees to produce her school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s her first big mistake. The second is accidentally saying Yes to a date with her oldest friend, Jack, even though she’s crushing on Charlotte. Alison manages to stay positive, even when her best friend starts referring to the play as “Ye Olde Shakespearean Disaster.” Alison must cope with the misadventures that befall the play if she’s going to survive the year. She’ll also have to grapple with what it means to be “out” and what she might be willing to give up for love.
I received my copy via Netgalley
There’s two things this book promises: a play and a ff romance. It falls short on both aspects.
In order to discuss those points, I have to start with the characters. All these characters are so underdeveloped, I genuinely don’t know why I should like anyone. Or why the love interest, Charlotte, likes the main character. Or vice versa.
Alison (mc) supposedly wants to be a valedictorian, but she has no after school activities, or hobbies. Or any interests at all. We only actually see her doing homework once and that’s in the last 3rd of the book. She didn’t even want to be head of the school play, she was pushed into the position.
None of the characters do anything, unless they can directly serve the play. Halfway through the book I kept mixing all the characters and names up, which I never do (I’m used to reading high fantasy. I know how to memorize a million different names). I really chalk it up to a lack of characterization.
This, in turn, affected the romance. Alison was super obsessed with Charlotte, and there really wasn’t a reason beyond…she looked cute? I’ve always been very personality-based, so maybe this is just something I find weird. Let me know what you think.
For a while every chapter seemed to end with Alison thinking “well, as least Charlotte thinks I’m cute!” and, I’m not going to lie, it got old fast. Especially because I was still wondering why Charlotte even likes Alison in the first place.
The pacing of the romance was way too fast. They start texting, and we see a few basic texts before we get the line “we texted back and forth for hours” and then Alison asks her out. I have no reason to root for them because there was no build up. And all of Alison’s previous anxiety – which had held her back before this – seemed to fly out the window. It felt like I was reading a first draft, and there was supposed to be something in between these two events.
And then there’s the play itself. It was underwhelming. There was no one keeping track of the timeline throughout the book, so the night of the play seemed to pop up out of nowhere. It ruined the tension in the story, and then the play itself lasted only a page or two, so overall it was pretty disappointing. Considering the whole book hinged on this play, I would think we would get to see more of it.
There was also a side story about a competing theater troupe that just disappeared…?
I was so confused where this story was set. They use British terms like supper, bugger off, etc. but they’re also clearly somewhere in North America, which was super confusing. Also the mc really likes tea, so everything seemed to point to being British. Looking into it, the author is from Canada, so I’m genuinely curious whether this is slang that’s used in Canada, but I’ve never heard of that.
I originally had higher praise for TYSRML, but then as I sat on it for a few days, mulling over some of my thoughts, I realized there wasn’t really anything I enjoyed about. If a friend asked me if they should read it, I’m not entirely sure I’d say yes.
What did you think of The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life?