Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Review: Something Rotten

Title Something Rotten
Author Alan Gratz
Genre YA Literary Fiction (disguised as Commercial Fiction)
Category Mystery
Rating A+

Summary In a self-proclaimed YA rip-off of Hamlet, Gratz tells the story of Hamilton Prince who's trying to figure out who killed his dad, Rex, in the town of Denmark, Tennessee. Enter high school super sleuth, Horatio Wilkes (who's actually just logical and cool-headed amidst stress).

First Line "Denmark, Tennessee, stank. Bad. Life dead fish fricasseed in sewer water."

Review How can I say anything bad about this book? I can't. The only bad reviews this book gets are from people who were expecting a modern re-telling of Hamlet to have a twist ending. It doesn't. The same person who did the killing in Shakespeare's classic did the killing in Something Rotten. New endings and surprise twists aren't the purpose of this book.

This book is so beautiful in it's simplicity, wit, and ability to get you to want to read Shakespeare. I am now yearning to go back and re-read Hamlet and pick up on all the things I missed because I didn't understand them (and my high school English teachers didn't have the time, curriculum-wise, to move beyond "Who are the characters?" and "What is the plot?"). Symbolism is rife, dialogue is rich, and now it makes sense.

I think this book (and Gratz's two follow-up Horatio Wilkes mysteries that tackle Macbeth and A Midsummer's Night's Dream) should be required reading in high school before Shakespeare. The added beauty of this book is that, although it's clean enough to slip right into any high school without making waves with the book-banning legislators, it's relatable, relatively contemporary (save Gratz's affinity for outdated cult-classic music that most kids have never heard of these days), and honest. Drinking happens, sex is alluded to, and high school is really high school. But it's all done so well.

I recommend any wannabe-YA writers to check Gratz out, and read this advice he gave, so you can watch a master at balancing reality with morality (it's semi-possible). He's not the only person doing it (John Green's a good one too), but Gratz isn't getting nearly the play he deserves.

A+ (+++) for him, and I'll be getting the rest in this series for darned sure.


Jess said...

This sounds like a great read, thanks for the review.

Thanks also for stopping by my blog today.

Have a great weekend.

beth said...

I love this series of books! Alan Gratz is a brilliant writer--and you're right--he doesn't get his due credit!

Kelly said...

Ooh, I love retellings like this. Thanks for the great review!

Andrea said...

I completely agree. It is like a pre-Shakespeare primer. And it is so much fun if you've read the plays before.
Thanks for visiting my review today.