Retelling Shakespeare

26 May

Great masterpieces of literature have been retold many times. How could we forget that great fan fiction film classic Clueless?

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In case you didn’t see the movie, it is loosely based on jane Austen’s Emma. It wasn’t really my cup of tea.

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale,  E. K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear is far more my cup of tea.

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The title comes from stage directions in Act III, Scene 3. And it is why our main character is named Hermione Winters, and her boyfriend Leon. Unlike the play, the book opens at cheerleading camp in Northern Ontario, Canada, where, as a senior, Hermione is one of the leaders. I will admit that I was a little put off at first because of the cheerleading aspect of this book, but I set my prejudice aside, trusting in E. K. Johnston’s ability to tell a story.

Summary: Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

Every girl who suffers a sexual assault should have the support system Hermione has. Every girl who knows someone who has been sexually assaulted should be as supportive as Hermione’s friends, family, coach, and police officer in charge of the case. Johnston admits that she has written an ideal support system, and I think it is important that she has. Sometimes we are cast as the main character, sometimes the supporting characters and the supporting characters in this book have a lot to teach us.

This might be one of the best books for young adults I’ve read this year.

 

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