Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth / ★★★ 1/2
Summary: Sophomore Emma Allen is the assistant stage manager of her high school’s production of Hamlet. When things start to go awry, she stumbles upon a portal to the Globe Theater…in 1600s London, which is also putting on Hamlet, and suddenly Emma finds herself responsible for two plays.
I was starting to get it – Shakespeare saw the scene as one big picture, and each line, each hand gesture, each movement across the stage affecting the composition. In this scene, Hamlet was excited and passionate, but also spinning and shaky. Every person onstage had to contribute to getting Hamlet’s state of mind across to the audience.
I tried not to think about our BHS production and how much it paled in comparison to what was being created in front of me.
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary/Historical Fiction/Fantasy
More than anything else, this book was fun. It was an easy, quick read, which was exactly what I was in the mood for. I was really intrigued by this book when I first read the summary- a girl in present day who time travels back to Shakespeare’s time?? Sign me up. I was more interested in the historical aspect of it than the actual Hamlet part of it, and overall, it was basically what I expected, which is to say, it was a good mix of both- with some high school drama. It’s a unique mix of concepts, but I thought this book balanced it quite well.
I realized very quickly that this book wasn’t one that was going to go into the details of its fantasy – it never quite tells you how the time travel occurs or why – but it was easy for me to suspend my disbelief, and I was more interested in the progression of the plot. My favorite parts of Saving Hamlet were definitely the scenes in which Emma traveled back in time and interacted with the Globe Theater actors. I wouldn’t say this is a book to turn to if you’re trying to glean very authentic historical knowledge, but I liked the atmosphere Booth created and the way she interpreted how a production may have been put on in that time period. I liked the sweet nature of it, and it was another area I didn’t mind suspending my disbelief. I also liked how the author used the play of Hamlet and offered different interpretations of the play and its character through her own characters.
This book is mainly about a high school play, and understandably this comes with a plot full of teenage drama. This, I don’t mind, but I do think it went a little over the top. The main character has three different love interests, and that made it hard for me to become invested in her ending up with any one of them. The plot surrounding the drama did feel messy at times and like it was packing a bit too much.
I did feel like this book got a little preachy at times when it came to LGBT issues and sexism. These things were very prevalent to the plot, and understandably so, but I often felt like I was being told, rather than shown. This also presented some confusion for me, because like I said, it was clear where this book stood on LGTB issues, but at times the text would make these vast and stereotypical generalizations about gay people. I tried to attribute it to the characters rather than the book itself, because characters grow, but as these comments cropped up repeatedly from different characters throughout the book, and in flippant thoughts of the main character, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. There was some development in dispelling this by the end, but it didn’t feel entirely clear to me, and these comments paired with the intensity of pro-LGBT themes was a strange combination that irked me at times. But I did like the themes of friendship and “love above all” in this book, and I can understand what the author was trying to get across.
This book had a fun cast of characters. They were cute and quirky and I particularly liked the way Booth wrote the Globe Theater actors. They were sweet, even though I would have expected them to have been more…sordid and gritty, in real life. I did think there were some characters who could have been developed a bit more, and I found the main character, Emma, to be a bit too passive and wishy-washy at times for my taste, though I liked the portrayal of her anxiety issues, and I liked how she developed because of her participation in the two plays over the course of the book.
While I wasn’t a fan of the romance in this book and found it a bit too messy, I really liked the friendship between the characters. It was sweet and I liked how it developed over the course of the plot. And I definitely learned a whole lot about stage production.
The only real standout character for me was Cooke, the actor who played Ophelia in the 1600s Hamlet. What an adorable guy.
I found the writing to be okay. It wasn’t great, wasn’t awful. There were some awkwardly worded sequences, but overall it worked and it was easy and quick to read.
Was I satisfied?
I mean, if a book like this could be personalized for me, it have been much grittier and more focused on the details of time travel and the historical aspects, BUT, overall, this was a cute, fun book and I was happy to stretch my disbelief for it. The relationship drama was a bit over the top, but I liked it for the Shakespeare and the time travel and 1600s London.