In That Way Madness Lies, young adult authors reimagine and retell various works of Shakespeare. Some characters are now openly queer, some are people of color. Some settings are modern day, some the Victorian era. Some of the stories are realistic (or as realistic as one can get with Shakespeare), and some are fantasy or science fiction.
I also listened to the audiobook of this, which has a different narrator (or narrators) for each story, and it really added a lot to an already great collection. I don’t think I could pick a favorite, because all the narrators were fantastic, though I definitely had an over-the-top fangirl moment when the narrator for Red, White & Royal Blue started talking.
These short stories are fantastic. Each one is so different, but the intent is the same in nearly all of them—to give other voices, especially those who have been underrepresented or represented stereotypically—a chance to explore the stories of Shakespeare. Considering how uncomfortable some portrayals are in Shakespeare, such as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, it was nice to see the ways the writers played with the narrative. They gave certain weaker characters more agency and silent characters voices.
There are many serious moments, particularly in the stories based on the tragedies, but also a lot of humor and heart. There is so much potential for fun changes, and these authors did really well. I liked how different all the stories were—there is one involving a vampire, one told entirely in text messages, one set on a spaceship. And best of all, I didn’t need to be too familiar with the source material. As a former English major, I’ve read several of these, but still others I know little about. However, these stories only take inspiration from the plays, but still exist as their own tales. So rest assured you don’t need to know Shakespeare to enjoy this book!
In the end, That Way Madness Lies is a highly entertaining collection of short stories. If you’re looking for something fun, thoughtful, serious, tragic, and comic all at once the way Shakespeare is, look no further. And, bonus, there’s actually diversity, with a diverse group of writers telling their own stories.