If there’s one thing I absolutely love, it’s adaptation or re-invention of a text. Romeo and/or Juliet is especially interesting because not only does Ryan North try to re-invent one of Shakespeare’s most infamous works, it also messes with form of the standard novel. North wrote this novel as a choose-your-own-adventure story, where you as the reader decide which path your characters should take. North allows the reader to choose which character to play as, and depending on which paths you take gives you a variety of possible endings. This concept isn’t a new one, but to take on a full length narrative arguably qualifies this novel as literary fiction.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel – I loved the modern contemporary language that North uses to describe what happens in each pathway section. The type of language North uses – which I would call Tumblr language – adds to the humour of the novel. He openly mocks some decisions and lets the characters do completely strange and hilarious things. You can even play different characters at certain points – I loved Nurse Quest and playing a film noir version of Rosaline Catling, the character who Romeo is in love with at the start of the play (and now novel) before he meets Juliet.
North’s narrative is expertly written – he uses the right amount of wit to keep the reader interested, and includes story paths that show the characters could have lead healthy fulfilling lives even if they hadn’t met one another. North shows that depending on the different choices they could have made, e.g. telling their parents they were madly in love with each other rather than going behind their backs, the characters could have ended up with a happy ever after. I really liked what North did to Juliet’s character, making her really into weightlifting and making her a more believable character rather than a simpering waif. Another thing of note about this novel was the beautiful artwork that is with each ending.
The only criticism I have of this novel is that some of the pathways were quite short, so if you wanted to go back and follow through the other paths you had to earmark your previous page so you knew where to go back to. This novel has the potential to go on for a while, as there are so many endings – I had come to my first ending within the first 10 pathways or so. Obviously you want to read more of the novel, so keep flicking through pathways to read more. It has taken me at least three weeks to get through most of it, but there is no clear ending if you want to read through as much as possible.
This is definitely one for young adult readers to enjoy, and to get people more interested in Shakespeare. I would definitely recommend this novel if you like hypertext fiction – North has written another choose-your-own-adventure novel based off Hamlet, which I will definitely be reading at some point! I really loved the concept, and I think North has done it justice. I would give it a 4/5.