Friday, 17 February 2017

Romeo And/Or Juliet, Ryan North

"Juliet," your mom says, "don't you think this surprise mandatory arranged marriage is the most wonderful news??"
  • Run past her, tear out of the house and never look back 
  • Say "yes mom" automatically 
What if Romeo never met Juliet? What if Juliet got really buff instead of moping around all day? What if they teamed up to take over Verona with robot suits? This choose-your-own-path version of Romeo and Juliet—packed with fun puzzles, secrets, and quadrillions of possible storylines—lets you decide where the plot goes every time you read. You might play as Romeo, or as Juliet, or as both of them at the same time. You might even unlock additional playable characters!
* * * *
4 / 5 

I picked this up when it was on sale at Waterstones on a whimsy and I have not been disappointed. This choose your own path adventure is jam packed with hilarious plotlines, gorgeous illustration, and bundles of fun. If you've never "read" a choose your own path book, essentially you read some text and then it offers you a couple of options of things to do and you turn to the corresponding page. I would recommend you have had a reasonable acquaintance with Romeo and Juliet before buying this, otherwise I doubt that you would find it so amusing. With at least a hundred different endings, you never really finish a book like this. 

The writing is fairly decent, though it is rather "juvenile". There's a lot of use of teenage slang, bullet points, random capitalisation and such like, which some may find off-putting. Personally, as a fully grown adult, I found it added to the hilarity. Another addition I enjoyed was Ryan North made Juliet really into bodybuilding and lifting weights, whilst Romeo becomes your typical teenage boy even more explicitly than in the original text. If you are a Shakespearean purist, this probably isn't the book for you! 

The illustrations are drawn by a few different artists, including a personal favourite Noelle Stevenson, and they range from beautiful to hilarious. Each ending has its own picture (two are shown below) and they truly enhance the reading experience. 

There are lots of little easter eggs for readers that are familiar with a few other of Shakespeare's plays. One of my endings involved Juliet teaming up with Ophelia to enslave the entire world, another "playthrough" landed me in A Midsummer Night's Dream, in a book within a book type scenario. There's also a nice little comic involving Pyramus and Thisbe. Regarding the story lines themselves, you can follow an approximation of the real Romeo and Juliet all the way to the end, or diverge at any point. Notable journeys involved:

  • Giant robots are in Verona
  • Nurse Quest, a video game style segment in which nurse Angelica must deliver a message to Romeo
  • Juliet becomes a pirate
  • Romeo and Juliet elope and raise a family of bodybuilders
  • Romeo becomes a maid
  • Juliet marries Paris
  • Juliet murders Romeo and then Paris and then opens a bakery

Personally,  I love these kinds of books. I stick my fingers in all the pages when I make choices so I can go back and play again, this time making different decisions. I did read-throughs with friends, making group decisions. I accidentally killed Romeo and Juliet on multiple occasions and had to start over, laughing all the while. The only downside to this kind of book is that you do inevitably end up reading the same sections over and over, trying to figure out how to get to a really cool ending you glimpsed earlier. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this lighthearted book.

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