Author: Dani Jansen
Narrator: Rebecca Auerbach
Audiobook Length: 7 hours 49 minutes
Alison Green, desperate valedictorian-wannabe, agrees to produce her school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s her first big mistake. The second is accidentally saying Yes to a date with her oldest friend, Jack, even though she’s crushing on Charlotte. Alison manages to stay positive, even when her best friend starts referring to the play as “Ye Olde Shakespearean Disaster.” Alison must cope with the misadventures that befall the play if she’s going to survive the year. She’ll also have to grapple with what it means to be “out” and what she might be willing to give up for love.
The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life follows Alison who is desperate to be valedictorian and is now producing the school play of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The story follows her as she navigates her relationships (family, friends, and a possible romance) along with school and now the play. She is a fairly typical type-A character, who is also a little pretentious. While she seemed interesting, I did want to know more about why she was striving for perfection. It is told to the reader how much she wants to do well, but I feel we never get into detail to make her feel more well-rounded as a character.
The novel is full of various characters that all had potential, but they did come across as dramatized stereotypes at times. There was Becca, the best friend who is love with Jack, the other best friend, Jenny, the standoff-ish goth artist, Annie, the outgoing younger sibling, Ben, the jock who is somehow also in the running for valedictorian, Zach, the well-dressed gay student, and Charlotte, the pansexual “cool” girl. As each of these characters play a role in the production of the play, school life, and Alison’s personal life, the novel tells a lot of their stories. Since a lot of the novel is told rather than shown, it was difficult to connect with the development of any of the characters. They each had potential, but they seemed to be underdeveloped.
There is a fun exploration of the sisterly bond between Annie and Alison, and I enjoyed that they were not the same age. The two are at different points and have unique personalities, so I enjoyed their interactions. There is also a great exploration of Alison’s relationship with her best friend Becca through many ups and downs. While Jack is also supposed to be very close to Alison, I did not feel that the two were that close. The Shakespeare play was a huge plot point, but it did not feel as complete, for me, as it should have by the end. I also think that Alison’s personality and her ignorance for what the job entailed did not quite match. Overall, this was a cute story with a ton of potential. There were many interesting elements that could have used more exploration, but the pieces of the story were enjoyable. I did like the author’s writing style and would read more from her in the future.