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If We Were Villains

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  9,485 ratings  ·  2,285 reviews
Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail - for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Flatiron Books
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4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,485 ratings  ·  2,285 reviews

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شيماء ✨
Folks, when you come across this book, you’ll hear a voice saying, “Oh, this sounds interesting! Do it.” That’s the devil talking.

I hate this book so much I can't bear it. I tore through it, but I feel like it tore through me. That ending grabbed an invisible dagger and twisted it between my ribs. I didn’t want to talk for like...three years. I was exhausted. My heart felt like it was rammed by a semi-truck.

Fuck you, book. You're a bound bundle of dead tree. How dare you.

So, what’s this book ab
Elise (TheBookishActress)
You can justify anything, if you do it poetically enough.

this is going to be my favorite book of the year... almost definitely. I’m just saying that now on January 26th because I want you all to know. I genuinely cannot remember the last time I found myself so utterly engaged in a book.

Okay, so this is a drama set at a Shakespeare theater, in which a group of theater actors accidentally kill a man and deal with the fallout. Yay! Fun happy stuff. As the plays continue, their roles within thi

“You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.”

This book is so haunting, so atmospheric, so gripping, and so perfect. And If you, too, love The Secret History by Donna Tartt then I recommend this book with every single bone in my body. Also, this is such a love letter to Shakespeare and all his work, so if you appreciate that I think you’ll also fall so head over heels for this story. I’m honestly not sure what I expected going into If We Were Villains, but it is now one of my fav
Amalia Gavea
‘’’Tis now dead midnight.’’
Measure for Measure, Act 4, Scene 2

Why midnight?Midnight stands between light and darkness. The day that has been completed and the new one that slowly attempts to rise. During midnight, two key events take place in this glorious book, and like this haunting time of day, our characters are walking the thin line between good and evil. And for this, they make the best ‘’villains’’.

This book is so exquisite,so darkly beautiful that I didn’t want it to end. What fascina
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
until the ending, this was probably going to be a three star from me. a high three on the three-star spectrum, but a three nonetheless. it held my interest, but i think this one will resonate more with theater-kids than it did for me, because of how firmly entrenched it is in that world. rio makes it accessible to regular folk, but it probably helps to have a soft place in your heart for young actors and the things that drive them, and i’m someone impatient with affectation both in life and in m ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
this book! this book! my kingdom for this book!

this was absolutely sensational, a true work of brilliance. i was so enamoured by this story and everything it had to offer. it was quite clever and beyond invigorating - the type of book that fully immerses you whilst reading it.

the passion which radiated throughout this book made me feel so in love with shakespeare and his words (and i honestly never considered myself a fan). the way in which these students dedicated their lives to studying him w
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication.

This is a psychological thriller for deep thinkers. There is crime and there is punishment. There is mystery, suspense. There are intense characters, shallow ones too, those who are fatalistic and those who are tragic… just like a Shakespearean play.

Ten years ago, Oliver Marks was one of seven Shakespearean actors at the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Today he is about to walk out of a prison cell for the first
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who enjoyed "The Secret History," by Donna Tart
*Update - 2018*

Because I still think about this book almost a year after reading it, I'm moving it to my favorite's shelf. I think it's deserving there, right alongside The Secret History and Vicious.

4.25-4.5/5 Stars

This was breathtakingly brilliant. Honestly, if this book isn't on your to-be-read list, it needs to be. It starts off shaky (at least it did to me), however, once it grabs your attention - it will not let go.

Now, where do I even start? Should I s
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

I have no idea what to say - love doesn't seem like an accurate enough descriptor and nothing else comes to mind. This is 100% one of the most unique reading experiences I have ever had and now I have a headache. Full review to come.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
well this is my favorite book of this year so far.
also I feel attacked by that ending
✨    jamieson   ✨
Oct 17, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: adult, top-2019-tbrs
Are you ever so confident you're going to love a book there is no point even reading it because you just Know because that is kinda how I feel with this like I already know it's a fave book even tho I haven't read it okay

Like, I have a very specific aesthetic! it's dark books set in academic settings with people who are probably gay.

eg: the secret history, vicious, kill your darlings, dead poets society

Diane S ☔
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor
4.5. A small elite school, a theater program that is only about Shakespeare, seven friends, seniors, together from the beginning, strong, intense friendships formed. Oliver, our narrator, one of the seven, just released from spending tempers in prison. How did something so special, so promising, go so wrong?

A novel of love, obsession, friendship passion and betrayal. Spending all their on and off time together, this little theater group becomes more important to each other than their real famili
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, kindle
At the beginning I thought this was going to be a 5-star read for me. I was immediately sucked in and didn't want to put it down. I loved getting to know the characters; I found the setting and atmosphere very palpable and moody (it mostly takes place on a college campus in the late 1990's); and the Shakespearean elements were fun because I'd studied his work quite a bit in school.

However, as the story went on I found it to become quite predictable, and many of the elements from the beginning st
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, rounded up

I listened to this on a long drive and, despite being well-written, I nearly gave up on it. My initial reaction was I didn’t want to spend another minute with this group of pretentious theater students. Plus I was annoyed by the quotes from Shakespeare. But, since I was driving, I was a captive audience until my next stop.

Soon, things took an interesting turn when one of the students is found dead, and another is accused of the murder. From there, I was fully invested in ho
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player /That struts and frets his hour upon the stage /And then is heard no more: it is a tale /Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, /Signifying nothing"

The five words or fewer pitch: The Secret History meets William Shakespeare. Let me start off by saying this is not a perfect book and it certainly won't work for everyone. In fact, I don't know anyone I would personally recommend it to. But I really, really enjoyed reading this, and even if it ultima
Amy Imogene Reads
5 sonnet-inspiring stars!

An anti-Shakespeare reader reads a book structured, centered, and deeply versed in Shakespeare....and literally falls head over heels for it. What? If We Were Villains was amazing.

Writing: ★★★★★
Structure: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★

Seven fourth-year college students at an intense fine arts conservatory in Illinois find themselves in their own version of a Shakespearean tragedy as real life begins to blur around the edges of Shakespeare's verse. The hero, the vil
Lia  (a paper pigeon)
Actors are by nature volatile—alchemic creatures composed of incendiary elements, emotion and ego and envy. Heat them up, stir them together, and sometimes you get gold. Sometimes disaster.

This is like The Secret History 2.0

And I shamelessly loved every single line.
Sara (sarawithoutanH)
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Actual Rating: 4.5/5

This book was atmospheric and enthralling. I loved the main character, Oliver. The story twists and turns and the outcome gave me so many feelings.
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Oh. My. God. I loved this I loved this I looooooved this! So beautifully written, rich in detail, with an amazing cast of characters, it kept me hooked from beginning to end. It’s a story about friendship, passion, betrayal, grief, obsession, and most of all, love for the theatre and for Shakespeare.

From Goodreads:

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to kno
KL (Cat)
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Oh god here's to hoping I don't get lynched for this.

Personally, I find making book comparisons in reviews distasteful and frankly insulting to both writers. However there are times when a work comes up with startling similarities before you decide to roll your eyes, and say ok, Cassandra Clare, plagiarizing the Harry Potter series for The Iron Trial is not cool at all (and yes, it's been years but LET ME BE PETTY).

I'm not claiming that IWWV is a copy of The Secret History. Certainly there is
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it

I felt like I was reading the shorter, fast paced version of The Secret History.

this book is what you read when you're being especially mean to yourself. i'm literally crying and i refuse to leave my room for at least a month.

“For us, everything was a performance.” A small, private smile catches me off guard and I glance down, hoping he won’t see it. “Everything poetic.”

I read the audiobook for this (which was read gorgeously) and now my only goal in life is to get the physical copy and slowly reread every single chapter. Every single human emotion is i
”You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.”

Wow, this book was written so gorgeously and it was so dark and atmospheric. I’m not gonna lie it took me some time to really get into this story, but once I did I found it hard to put down. This story reminds me a lot of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, but I actually enjoyed this book more. It follows a bunch of pretentious college students who are obsessed with Shakespeare and they are so obsessed with Shakespeare that they start to
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
If I Were a Numskulled Nincompoop ...
(I Shall Not Spoil It for You.)

The book was heavy on histrionics for narrative fiction (as opposed to a play); too predictable for a mystery novel; definitely too hokey for literary fiction. For example, without warning, the characters in the midst of regular dialogue tend to break into pages of lines from Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, the story should please Shakespearean "folly-fallen, foot-lickers," and those up for sudsy suspense.
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019


Review to come.
5 stars--I loved it. An amazing read that's exactly my genre.

Three things about this book that might make you love it or hate it:

1. It's very similar to The Secret History, both in plot and theme. I love The Secret History, so this was right up my alley.

2. It contains an abundance of Shakespeare. There's a Shakespeare quote or play discussion on nearly every page. The characters speak to each other using phrases from Shakespeare.

3. The characters are pretentious, entitled, white college kids. I
Dannii Elle
I think I just found a new favourite book.

Oliver Marks has been released from prison and only two people are there to greet him. One is the newly retired Detective Colborne. And he wants to know the truth. The truth of what put Oliver behind bars. The truth behind the lie that has haunted his entire career. And now, finally, he might be able to get it.

Oliver transports both the detective and the reader back in time to the early 1990’s. He is entering his fourth year of dramatic training at Delle
Charlotte May
Mar 27, 2019 marked it as library-loans  ·  review of another edition
This one looks awesome - can't wait to start it!

Library copy available for pick up :)
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
#Update 2: 1+ months later: *waves from her grave* still not okay


I am in tears and I think I won't be okay for a long time
lucky little cat
"No, no, no, no."
"Why are people handing this five stars?"
"I don't know, maybe they're all in love with Richard. God knows all the rest of us are."
Really? But then I remembered not everyone was in love with Richard.
"But hasn't anyone noticed it's a lightweight Secret History wannabe, only with annoying theater majors?"
"And perchance with only the most obvious quotes from the Bard?"
"Sh! They'll hear you!"
"And you entirely left out the frequent whiffs of Harry Potter-ishness."
"I'm not sure I-
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Around the Year i...: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio 2 18 Mar 02, 2019 03:26PM  
YA Buddy Readers'...: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (Starting May 10) 13 27 May 23, 2018 02:37AM  
The Cheerful Wedn...: This topic has been closed to new comments. If We Were Villains | Thoughts & Reviews 15 37 Apr 29, 2018 02:29PM  
IWWV age range? 2 70 Dec 04, 2017 11:34AM  
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M. L. Rio is an author, but before she was an author she was an actor, and before she was an actor she was just a word nerd whose best friends were books. She holds a master's degree in Shakespeare Studies from King's College London and Shakespeare's Globe. She currently lives in Washington, D. C., but she is terrible at updating online bios, so this information will probably be outdated by the ti ...more
“For someone who loved words as much as I did, it was amazing how often they failed me.” 149 likes
“One thing I'm sure Colborne will never understand is that I need language to live, like food—lexemes and morphemes and morsels of meaning nourish me with the knowledge that, yes, there is a word for this. Someone else has felt it before.” 73 likes
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