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If We Were Villains

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  122,072 ratings  ·  23,647 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, 354 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Flatiron Books
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  122,072 ratings  ·  23,647 reviews

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chai ♡
Folks, when you come across this book, you will doubtless hear a voice saying, “Oh, this sounds interesting! Let's do it.” Let me tell you right now... that’s the devil talking.

Don't let my five-star rating fool you. 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 did nothing to deserve this. Fuck you, book. You are literally a bound bundle of dead tree. How dare you.

If you
Elle (ellexamines)
You can justify anything, if you do it poetically enough.

this is going to be one of my favorite books of the year... almost definitely. I’m 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
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
yet another reread and its good to know that dark academia is still my preferred aesthetic.


this book! this book! my kingdom for this book!

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

the passion which radiates throughout this story makes me feel so in love with shakespeare and his w
Hannah Azerang
Sep 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
“Oh, is all forgot?” I ask. “All school days’ friendship, childhood innocence?”

“We’ll never forget it,” she says. “That’s the worst part.”

Nov 28, 2020 marked it as will-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
there’s a reason the only song i know from something rotten is “god, i hate shakespeare”
5/5 ⭐

Full review on my Blog: The Dacian She-Wolf 🐺

“We felt all the passions of the characters we played as if they were our own. But a character’s emotions don’t cancel out the actor’s – instead you feel both at once.”

I can’t even express how upset I am to see how underrated this book is. Like, how the fuck??

This is such a good book; I’ve been obsessed with it for at least a week straight and even though I felt the urge to devour it, I didn’t want it to end so fast so I had
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
As someone who’s not familiar with theatre plays, I still enjoyed reading this book regardless. I’m sure theatre lovers will pick up all the nuances and appreciate it more, but it’s a fun ride with all the murder and melodrama, and I could still tell that much of the narrative mirrored plays that the characters were performing and quoting. There was a lot of building tension and intrigue throughout the story, though I felt the plot twist and the murder’s identity were predictable.
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
Oct 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
I haven't read a single Shakespeare play... yet I enjoyed this quite a bit!

Strong dark academia vibes (think The Secret History by Donna Tartt), great audiobook.
Kayla Dawn
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Uhm.. this was boring?

And maybe I'm uncultured or whatever but my god all of those Shakespeare quotes annoyed the hell out of me.
I didn't care for any of the characters, I didn't care for the plot and I didn't care who the murderer was (and if we're being honest, there wasn't even really a mystery here. I don't know if some stuff was supposed to be shocking or not, but it definitely was not thrilling)

I was bored out of my mind.

(And what's with those weird comments Oliver made about his sister

“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
Just got word - there's a new set of the coolest possible things you can be.
1) very into Shakespeare (can quote at length in casual conversation)
2) unbearably pretentious
3) complicit in a murder with your group of friends

You might think that the coolest things you can be might include traditional things, like "in possession of a motorcycle" or "a New York-based artist with family money" or "on some sort of high school athletic team / squad designated to cheer on said team."

But you'd be wrong.

✨    jami   ✨

To sum up: This is the secret history, but written better and with less queerbait, and it focusses on Shakespeare not Greek myths. Dark Academia is That Genre, I love it so much and it fuels me. I'm so glad I finally read this, it was truly delicious. Also, I'm talking about my Theory for the end in the last past of this review to stay tuned, folks!

“The real sky was enormous overhead, making our mirrors and twinkling stage lights seem ridiculous- Man’s futile attempt to imitate God”

If We We
here’s my review:

1) not gay enough 😡😴
2) author put me through so much hetero sex and for WHAT
3) this is why i steer clear of white theatre kids
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. This is so fucking frustrating. If We Were Villains had the potential to be truly awesome and it ended up being a complete and utter clusterfuck. The Bard would not be happy ... or maybe he would, if I recall the plot of As You Like It correctly. M.L. Rio's debut novel seems to rival its ridiculousness of plot and lacklustre characterisation. But just because Willie Shakes would've liked it ... doesn't mean I have to. ;)

No, but for real, this book started out great. It is seperated into fi
ELLIAS (elliasreads)
Character in book: eloquently quoting lines of *relatable* Shakespeare to my face-

Me: YOU DOTH QUOTE TOO MUCH BITCH, please shut the fuck up!!!

If anyone quoted more than five lines of Shakespeare to my face in every single conversation they've had with can bet it can definitely end in tragedy!!!!

This was literally: The Secret History VS If We Were Villains, and obviously for me, the former wins with a BIG SLAP across the face against IWWV. I think on its bare bones, there wasn't m
Charlotte May
"This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine."

I have no words. I expected this to be good - there are so many exceptional reviews, I really hoped it would live up to its hype.
Well, it did and more!
7 drama students at an Elite Arts University are in their final year. They are as close as 7 people can be, they fight, they love and above it all they are obsessed with the works of Shakespeare (bear this in mind if you don't like Shakespeare as there are loads of quotes and sections in here).

Oliver -
lisa (lewis hamilton's version)
i hate every single person who told me to read this book. "it would be fun!" fuck no ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
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
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
chan ☆
genre: bedtime story

cause it put me to sleeeeeep

(thoughts to come in a dark academia reading vlog)
Ali Goodwin
Nov 06, 2022 rated it really liked it
Ahhh I'm honestly SO conflicted on what to rate this book. On the one hand, it is SO well written👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 but on the other hand it was so sad😭 I wish there were more happy parts in it but that's just a personal thing because I think I've come to realize that I prefer happy/escapism books. Overall such a unique and well written read!! ...more
Personally, I believe this book belongs in jail for what it did to me. Coming out of If We Were Villains I feel tainted with the undeniable immorality of it all. I'm left with a sense of wrongness that will probably stick with me for the rest of my life. And yet I'm unhealthily, inexplicably and irreversibly drawn to this book.

There's something so fucking sexy about the intelligence that If We Were Villains posesses. I feel like I became a part of this story, as if I myself just witnessed a murd
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: m-m
well this is my favorite book of this year so far.
also I feel attacked by that ending
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
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-
Mara YA Mood Reader
Now this is what New Adult should be like! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

I had serious Dead Poets Society vibes here, I loved the dark academia atmosphere, with weird theatre kids haha.

I’m neutral when it comes to Shakespeare. I didn’t attend traditional high school so I was never academically exposed to it, nor did I seek it out on my own. I don’t like Shakespeare nor hate it...I simply just don’t know Shakespeare...

So in a way, I guess I was mildly intrigued by the heavy Shakespearean content and fan
*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
Apr 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-star, 2020
Jesus Christ. Where do I start?

I guess I’ll begin by saying that I don’t give books a 1 star rating often.

I think what makes me angry more than anything is that this book has been praised in this community by so many who have seemed to turn a blind eye to the blatant slut-shaming and sexism that seems to pop up relentlessly.

I’ve seen few female characters written more poorly than Meredith. In the beginning of the story, all of the classmates are asked to share their biggest insecurities. Mere
☀︎El In Oz☀︎

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

This was so perfect and my heart is broken.
Gosh. When I was hearing about this book, the two things that hooked me in were dark academia (an aesthetic more books need) and how it’s essentially a love letter to Shakespeare and words in general. After reading, I can confirm both things are true, and I can also say if you’re heart isn’t ripped out by the end you can’t be human.

Actors are by nature volatile—alchemic creatures comp
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Buddy Read with Katie (aka Patronusaurus)
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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

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