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Falling for Hamlet

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Meet a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend's fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.

Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia.

348 pages, Hardcover

First published July 1, 2011

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Michelle Ray

15 books48 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 334 reviews
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,366 followers
June 27, 2012
"Mistakes and miscommunications. Violent love and violent hate. Betrayals and desire. Our beginning, our middle, and our end."

First let me state that this is my first time experiencing Hamlet's story. Having gone to a French school, Shakespeare's work was not part of our curriculum, hence my unfamiliarity with it. In addition, I've never had the opportunity to see it as a play as there are no production where I live. So yes, Shakespeare… not my forte; but I'm happy to report that I quite enjoyed Falling for Hamlet. Obviously I can't comment on any comparison; the author's notes at the end are very interesting, however, and showcase what she's changed, added, and modernized.

I'm not going to go into the study of Hamlet's character. Whole classes are taken up to discuss this. I actually spent a bit of time to Google Hamlet once I started it and found myself immersed by his madness and how this is actually left open to interpretation for the reader to decide what's real, and what isn't. How insane is he, really? I was obviously fascinated by his deeply complex characterization, but even moreso, how his madness seems to spread. This whole cast is really messed up! :D This can bring forth such a huge character study; like I said I won't start an essay about it. Let's just say that I have a shameless attraction to morbid tales like these. I love how incredibly tragic the characters' lives become. They're all so intense and dramatic; spiraling out of control. How can you look away? Michelle may not have created these characters, but she modernized their setting; made it fresh with some added material and extra twists that I'm confident fans of the original will enjoy.

The format - I loved it. We get the story in three different parts narrated by Ophilia: There's the story that she tells Zara during a TV talk show interview (think Oprah), there's her investigative interview, then there's the truth. The latter is our main story, the others being only short passages to begin and end each chapters. Glimpses of her interview on the Zara show set the perfect tone for what's to come. As for the investigation, it's fun and adds an extra punch to the story, but I didn't feel it was completely necessary. I will even admit to getting annoyed at the ridiculous accusations that are thrown regarding the smallest of details that are simply absurd. On the other hand it's amusing to see Ophilia's reactions to these.

I don't really have to go into the plot. I mean, I'm sure I was in a very small minority who aren't familiar with Hamlet. Michelle does modify it some while leaving the general story untouched (as stated in her notes). For instance, she begins the story before the King dies, she adds a lot of technology, and reworks how fast the media affects high profile lives with so much modern technology.

As a first experience, I can say it's a wonderfully perplexing and violent tale that while I can't compare to the original, I found myself incredibly enticed by this retelling. It's such a tragic story of love and loss, manipulation and fear. It's brilliant and thought provoking. If this is what one should expect from a modernized version of this tale, Michelle Ray nailed it.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Read with Sandee ・❥・.
645 reviews1,298 followers
December 29, 2014
Falling for Hamlet is a retelling of a Shakespearean play. I would ask you guys to guess but I think it’s pretty obvious already. Hehehe. It’s a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I honestly haven’t read that yet so I can’t really say how close or how far Ms. Ray was with the original work. But maybe it was for the

Anyways, Falling for Hamlet is one of those books that would stick to you because it was unique. It was a retelling yes but it was done in a good way. Also, I was not expecting how this book really stuck with the play. I thought it was a cheesy love story where the main characters were named after the characters from Hamlet. I also read another retelling of a more famous Shakespeare play which was the Juliet Spell. Juliet Spell was though a tragedy (not a real happy ending) it did not follow through with Romeo and Juliet as much as Falling for Hamlet did with Hamlet.

Instead of the story being told in Hamlet’s POV, it was told in Ophelia’s who was also a character in the original Hamlet play. What was more amazing about it was that aside from Ophelia’s flashbacks on what’s happening, we were also getting glimpses of her interview with a talk show host and with the police. Cool Huh? HELL YEAH!

The characters they said were based on the original Shakespearean work and I liked them all. Firstly there’s Ophelia that I just loved to hate but can’t. She was pretty and the girlfriend of a prince. Who could compete with that? (Can you tell I’m really envious?!) Anyway what I really liked about how willing she was to protect those people she loves. She was sweet and crazy in love with Hamlet. She had to face rather difficult situations that on my opinion were handled pretty well.

If you are a fan of Shakespeare and wants to get see a version of Hamlet in the present day then I highly recommend this book.
The cover really got me fooled. I never expected this book to end up the way it did.
All the while I thought I was going to get loads of cheesiness like the typical YA romance novel but I was wrong.


Profile Image for Lawral.
169 reviews23 followers
July 13, 2011
Let me start by saying that you should not judge this book by its cover. Or by its opening lines:

"Frailty, thy name is woman." - William Shakespeare
"Willy, thy name is sexism." - Ophelia

Don't get me wrong, both have very much to do with the story (other than Hamlet's hair color on the cover), but they really make this look like a much lighter, funnier, beach read kind of book than it really is. I mean, really, how would one make an adaption of Hamlet light? Instead, this book is everything it should be; it's brooding and dark and, at times, intense. It's also narrated by a strong Ophelia who is understandably worried (and sometimes so tired/drunk she's a bit loopy - how else could one explain the flower scene?) about her boyfriend's apparent loss of sanity but who also does her best to be supportive and helpful to those around her, especially her aforementioned boyfriend and her widower father, all while trying to keep her own life together in the midst of circumstances no high school senior should have to deal with. She is so at odds with both the classic and modern versions of how we usually see the character of Ophelia. I loved it.

The story stays pretty true to the original, with one major difference that is given away on the jacket flap: Ophelia survives. The motivations behind people's actions, however, are different. The "truth," what Ophelia is telling us the readers, is book-ended by Ophelia's tell-all appearance on fake-Danish-Oprah in the beginning of each chapter and her interrogation by the Danish police at the end. These three concurrent tellings of the same story, illustrate the fabrication of what we take for "fact" from the media and the reach of a government cover-up more explicitly than that paparazzi pic on the cover ever could. On faux-prah, Ophelia is sweet, in love, heart-broken, and kind of ditzy. She's the almost princess. While being interrogated, she is bitingly sarcastic, angry, and fiercely loyal to Horatio and Marcellus, the only other people to survive the bloodbath that is this story. She's accused of being the master-mind of a plot to overthrow the Danish monarchy. In between, she's just a girl doing her best to do what's right for herself and those she loves.

Really and truly, I loved this book. It sucked me into the story and kept me on the edge of my seat even though I knew, more or less, what was going to happen. The characters were well-rounded and real in ways that Shakespeare characters usually are not. I cried when the king died. Have you ever cared about Hamlet's dad enough to even care that he's dead? I haven't. And Hamlet himself made a bit more sense, not a lot, but a bit. Giving him a happy background with Ophelia, at least in flashbacks, made their whole relationship much more believable which made it all the more crushing when he becomes cruel. Michelle Ray has managed to take a story that I already knew well and liked, and she made it into something new and original that I love. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Cassie-la.
523 reviews63 followers
June 15, 2012
REVIEW ALSO ON: http://bibliomantics.com/2011/07/29/i......

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Hamlet, so I was super stoked when I heard a modern young adult retelling was coming out. I even pimped it in my post about upcoming novels in 2011. If only I could go back in time and take away that excitement, because despite all the mind-boggling five star reviews this novel received on Amazon (who is reviewing this- fans of James Patterson), it is truly a painful piece of “literature”. Although it’s unfair to refer to it as literature, even in quotation marks when I’m pretty sure it’s just bad fanfiction.

Cassie-wa has a really awesome anecdote about Milton writing the first fanfiction when he penned or rather had someone transcribe Paradise Lost. Now I have read a lot of fanfiction in my time, most of it bad but a select bit of it really damn good. Unfortunately, Falling for Hamlet isn’t even boring good like Paradise Lost, nor is it good bad like less famous fanfiction. Instead, it’s merely bad. Painfully so. Having to listen to Henry Rollins’ spoken word poetry would be less painful.

The story starts off as most bad fanfiction does, with a ridiculous premise. Ophelia is on a talk show telling her story to the Oprah like Zara, minus the screaming and giving away free tropical islands. We are introduced to Ophelia’s world, which begins BEFORE Hamlet’s father’s death by a whopping 120 pages. Instead of living in a castle, the royal family lives in a giant building and for some reason the elevator opens directly into people’s apartments so it’s important not to pick the wrong floor. Why Ray added this detail is unclear. Regardless, it’s jarring, ridiculous, and might as well be a castle in Edoras. Factor in the fact that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are frat brothers and Hamlet goes to Wittenberg University, and you have lost my attention completely. I would rather read about a girl falling into Middle-earth.

In addition to the strange setting, the novel is full of groan worthy jokes at the expense of Hamlet. Ophelia’s favorite band is the Poor Yoricks (facepalm), her ring tone for Polonius is “Papa Don’t Preach” (double facepalm), she says, “goodnight, sweet prince” to Hamlet at bedtime (triple facepalm), and rather than eating at Denny’s, the characters eat at Daney’s (WHY!?! WHY!?!). The modernity is just too much. Having Ophelia referred to as “Phee” and Claudius as “the Claw” or “Claudi-ass” takes you out of the moment, and had the jokes been funny yet respectful (rather than merely stupid) they probably would have worked a lot better.

The most painful part of this retelling however comes from the way in which Ray tries to rework the most famous scenes from the classic. In Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not to Be” speech, Ray chooses to have him write these two phrases over and over again a la The Shining‘s “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. This is not the bad bit however, that comes when Hamlet starts to speak. “Is it better to suffer through life, to deal with all the crap thrown at you, or to fight against your problems by ending your life? To die is to sleep. That’s all.” Really!?! You pared down the most famous soliloquy of all time so an 8 your old could grasp it!?! Even Billy Madison could understand the original.

Another ruined scene is the one in which Hamlet threatens Ophelia and tells her to become a nun while Claudius and Polonius are eavesdropping on them. In this version, Polonius and Claudius are hiding behind the partition in a limo, and Ophelia is blackmailed into finding out information over threat of Claudius releasing a sex tape of her and Hamlet. With that in mind, Hamlet yells out, “Go become a nun, you whore!” before jumping out of the limo and running down the street toward the nearest “subway”. The line speaks for itself, but a subway!?! You’re writing about Denmark, in Denmark they have the metro, the subway is in New York. At least try to do some research.

As if it couldn’t get any worse in terms of plot, I found myself speeding toward the ending just so the damn book would end. At this point in the narrative, Polonius has been killed by Hamlet, and Gertrude and Claudius are holding Ophelia hostage so she cannot release this information to the public. We learn that Ophelia is not crazy, but merely gets drunk off vodka and draws flowers all over Gertrude, Horatio, and Laertes because she’s a lush. She uses this to her advantage and fakes her death, hiding herself away with help from Marcellus.

Since Ophelia is supposed to be dead, Horatio video chats with her so she can watch a charity LACROSSE MATCH with Hamlet’s team versus Laertes team (who happens to be in graduate school and is therefore too old to be playing in a high school lacrosse game). Did I mention that this lacrosse stick has a poisoned knife attached to the end of it which no one notices through the first quarter of the game? Because it does.

To make a long story short, Ophelia loses video and receives a text message from Horatio informing her: “o gd. all r dead”. There really are not enough facepalms in the world for this post. He then shows up in her hotel room to inform her how everyone and their mother died, focusing particularly on Gertrude who turned blue and foamed at the mouth, to which Ophelia replies, “Ew“.

Thankfully, there is one small redeeming quality to this novel, and it is that Ray creates a stronger, albeit a little whiny Ophelia. Whereas Bella Swan would have have forgiven Edward for killing her father, Ophelia stands her ground and escapes from the royal family. She’s not quite Daenerys Targaryen, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Profile Image for Lyn *GLITTER VIKING*.
345 reviews99 followers
January 8, 2016

Falling for Melodrama is more like it. How can you say this is set in Denmark when it has nothing resembling Danish culture? And how can I really feel any sympathy for a slut-shaming sexual assaulting asshole? And when people break up, there is no reason in the world to blame a girl for trying to move on. "Look what you did." What did she try to do? Move on with her life? She isn't OWNED by a guy, FFS!

I hated this book. Hated it. Slut shaming, girl-on-girl hate, sexual assault,classism, plot holes, etc etc.
Profile Image for Katherine.
770 reviews350 followers
August 15, 2017
"''You had to fall for Hamlet. You're downfall, you might say.'"

And unfortunately, that quote completely sums up not only Hamlet and Ophelia's entire relationship, but the book itself. Because their respective characters and their relationship ultimately helped contribute to this book's respective downfall.

What would happen if William Shakespeare’s Hamlet were to take place in the present day? What if cameras, paparazzi, cell phones and news outlets everywhere were watching the character’s every move? That is the question Michelle Ray answers in her contemporary retelling of one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. Narrated by Ophelia (Hamlet’s love), we see how the play would have presented itself if it were to take place in our fame and royals obsessed generation. Would it have been any more different? Would it make the characters any more sympathetic?

And the answer to all of the above questions is a sound and resounding… no.

Let me just preface this by saying that I have not read the original play. I've read only two Shakespeare plays in my life; Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer's Nights Dream. Both plays I hated with a passion, and have therefore avoided reading any more Shakespeare plays at all costs, for fear that I will go absolutely insane. So the idea of an author retelling the Bard’s work in contemporary, modern English for modern audiences was incredibly appealing to me. However, while the plot mirrored closely to the original, I thought the characters regressed enormously from the original, which is incredibly disturbing to think about since the author’s intent was to modernize them.

I don’t know how Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship was in the original play, as I have stated above that I didn’t read said play. I do know that Ophelia doesn’t appear in very many scenes, as she’s sort of a background character. However, in this book she’s front and center to the story, and the relationship between her and Hamlet is extremely toxic.
”’I don’t know how to be without him.’

‘Then we have a problem.’”
There’s a fine line between making two characters completely, undeniably insane (in the sense of Hamlet), and portraying a toxic relationship while all the time romanticizing it. To put it quite simply, Hamlet treats Ophelia like complete and utter crap. There’s no nice way to put it.
”A few hours ago, he’d treated me like garbage in front of hundreds of people. Two days ago, he’d caught me with another guy. Six days ago, he told me to stay away from him. Either he was crazy or faking it. I wasn’t sure what to believe.”
You won’t be getting any ooey-gooey romantic vibes like the ones you get every time a picture of William and Kate appear on the internet. Even before he descended into complete and utter madness, I didn’t really feel any particular romantic feelings on his part for her. Not to mention that she makes up excuses for him every single damn time. I do get that he was mentally insane, but she was doing it well before the events occurred. And that’s just not OK, y’all.

The book is written from three POV’s: Ophelia being interviewed on a TV show after the events of the book transpired, her bring interviewed by the police (again, after said events transpired), and her telling us about the events from her POV. We are led to believe that the truth is being told from her POV, but she’s such an unreliable narrator that it can be confusing to even determine whether that is even the truth at all. The author wrote Ophelia as a chameleon like character with the capability of changing her attitude and story point of view to match what she wants you, the reader to believe.
”’You seem pretty big on blaming the victim.’

‘I don’t see any victim here. I just see the last girl standing.’”
If the author’s intention was to make this novel give Ophelia a more sympathetic spotlight, it failed. Not that I can say with 100% certainty that Shakespeare’s characters in his tragedies are at all sympathetic, but it’s kind of a new low when a modernization of these characters is more antiquated than those written in the 16th-17th century.

The rest of the characters are despicable as well, but to have the main couple be the ultimate downfall of the novel is saying something. While this retelling is imaginative and clever, and the integration of modern phrases and technology was done seamlessly, the modern updates on the characters were abysmal and portrayed them in an even worse light than the originals, particularly when it came to the couple at the center of it all, Hamlet and Ophelia. You’ll feel little sympathy for both of them, and won’t mind both of their descents into madness and utter despair. For a more resound retelling of the famous play, I would recommend Ophelia by Lisa Klein. As for this attempt, Shakespeare lovers should proceed with caution.
Profile Image for April .
466 reviews15 followers
August 3, 2011
(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)

I wanted to love this book. At first, I was positive that I would. The pace was quick, the writing was fine, and there were parts of it that I still really like. There were a lot of clever references throughout the text and exchanges of dialogue that modernized scenes from the play that were very well-done. I felt that the characters were updated in a very cool way, and I liked the idea of Ophelia being the one to dish on what had happened.

However, I feel like Falling for Hamlet sort of maybe missed the point of Hamlet because this was absolutely the most light-hearted re-telling of a tragedy I've ever come across and not in a good way. I understand that teens enjoy fun books. Most people do, but I don't know if a revenge story featuring a series of murders is really the best thing to turn into some sort of teen scandal. I didn't mind Falling for Hamlet being clever and funny,* but I didn't feel like madness, revenge, grief, or even the gravitas of the situation was given close to enough page time.

I think that by trying to modernize and change so much of the play's ending and events, the book never managed to have any real kind of emotional weight for me as a reader. I guess it was neat to make Ophelia something other than a sad, droopy, delicate flower and that she lived, there just wasn't much left for Ophelia to be. She didn't even seem to be very much in love with Hamlet, which seemed sort of bizarre to me, really. I wanted to at least be pleased that the person she wound up saving was herself, but I didn't like her enough for that to matter. I would have much preferred to see her struggling with maybe a modernized version of the original Ophelia's issues. It would have been more interesting, given her some actual emotional range, and made her more sympathetic/believable as a main character.

I also felt that Falling for Hamlet used italics, transcriptions, fonts, flashbacks, and time jumps over and over again in a really distracting way and one that ultimately didn't do anything. I still can't figure out why all these techniques were used when none of them shed any light on the situation or granted me new insight as a reader. At first, I thought having a talk show at the beginning and a police interrogation at the end of each chapter was a nifty concept. But that too became just one more way of rehashing very straightforward events and saying the same thing without actually saying much at all.

In conclusion, Falling for Hamlet is a quick read with a lot of potential that has a lot of style but not enough substance. I don't really know who to suggest this book to, but, if you're a fan of the original play, it's probably worth taking a peek at.

* I loved the little details like Ophelia's ringtone for Polonius being "Papa Don't Preach."
Profile Image for Ashley Barrineau.
114 reviews4 followers
April 25, 2011
I was not sure if I would really like this book. I am generally not a romance reader, or a Shakespeare revisiter. However I am a big fan of Hamlet and this book really intrigued me. The book is set up with alternating chapter headers that focus on investigations by the FBI equivalent in Denmark, and Ophelia being interviewed by a talk show host about the incident that is slowly unfolding. These interludes really kept me reading, I really wanted to know what was going to happen to Ophelia, especially with the unique option of reading from her perspective. The irony of reading this for me was the fact that I am completely familiar with the story and what happens, but as I started this book I really didn't think ahead to the end I knew I read inadvertently with blinders and really enjoyed the moments when the original text of Shakespeare's Hamlet broke through.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 3 books186 followers
May 5, 2011
No, no, no. Just...no. Shakespeare doesn't need to be chick-lit-ized in order to be sexy, bloody or dramatic. Ophelia's ambivalence about someday marrying into the royal family does bring to mind Will and Kate's recent nuptials, which might make a decent booktalk hook. But that's my only positive take away from this novel. Just don't mess with the Bard.
Profile Image for Jenna.
635 reviews82 followers
September 4, 2011
A ridiculously humorous and modern retelling of the famous Shakesperean “Hamlet” through the perspective of the unbelievably brave Ophelia.

I was captured by this book with these line
“ He was scrawling ‘To Be’and ‘Not to Be’over and over, ‘What’s that?’ I asked. ‘That is the question’”
Hilarious. I know.

I have to be honest, I can’t compare & contrast back-to-back Falling for Hamlet with the original manuscript because I haven’t read the latter. I did, however, know the gist of the story (yeah, I read the summary to give me a heads up of what to expect with this novel), so I can say a few words about this. There were major changes such as the setting (all of it), nevertheless the important stuff remained. This retelling by Michelle Ray is meticulously original in its own as if it was not inspired by any old stuff, the dark humor was clever and brilliant. Can’t say anything bad about it and I can’t find any fault or uncovered holes in the story.
The idea of telling the story from Ophelia’s perspective was genuinely creative and smart as it proved to be well-informed and it set the story and ‘facts’ straight. I liked how each chapter opened with a live televised interview and ended with a scene with the detective’s questioning with Ophelia. The style somewhat gives the readers forewarning of what’s to happen. I also loved how the main essence of the story was kept in the novel- they all died. It’s tragic, yes, no doubt about it, but it’s cruelly valid to have the ending remain the same. I did not mourn with reading that chapter but I was humored because it was a funny and ridiculous thing to die of..the poisoning and Claudius may think he was clever but he was just stupid and what a jerk really. Although Hamlet did most of the heinous crime acts but I can’t really blame him and he had a brave and courageous ending. Ophelia, or “Phee” as Hamlet called her (which I like) is just as dangerously kick-ass. She may have done her fair share of mischief and wrong decisions, but in the end she’s the survivor because she’s the smartest of them all. To have done what she did deserves not only an Academy award but maybe a CNN heroes award too.
Falling for Hamlet really wasn’t the best thing that happened to Phee but it was the most memorable, I am sure. Every part of the story after the King’s death revolved around that “Falling for Hamlet”. It did no one good, that’s why everybody died. At first, I wanted Phee and Hamlet to end up together but after reading the next half, just as Ophelia decided this time would be the last one, I also realized that it is really healthy for everyone that they not end up with each other. I soon found out that it was okay... this was not meant for a happy love story ending.
It, after all, began with a sweet sugar-coated innocent teen romance, stained by social rumors & mildews, tainted by political maliciousness, contaminated by madness, and well, in the end we all learn that these four mixed together doesn’t end well.
Marvelous artful craft I did not regret to buy and read. :)
Profile Image for Martha.
77 reviews
September 6, 2016
I'll have to try and make my way back to this one, folks.
Having already read and watched Hamlet, I can't help but compare the two. And when you compare Shakespeare to anyone else - I don't care who - you lose. Shakespeare owns. Every time.

It's extremely difficult for me to read a retelling and not compare it to the original. Nearly impossible. The original is always better. Always. (In my experience)

Don't misunderstand me, I did actually like what I read. I loved the way Michelle Ray was able to create the castle setting whilst still having a believable atmosphere; I felt that her characters were also very convincing. (Note: I said her characters. I felt that she definitely took creative license when it came to recreating them. In particular, Gertrude. Gah! She was awful)
It's just...Not...Hamlet? I don't know.
I'll pick it up again eventually.
Just remind me when I do to not analyze every last detail.

EDIT: January 5th

I finally made it through. Now, I know the rating is a little harsh-looking. But, by Goodreads's scale, 2 stars means "it's okay". Which it was. I'd say that I didn't care too terribly much for the writing or Opheilia, but Hamlet was pretty cool. Though, I also can't ever imagine the character of Hamlet being uncool, no matter what book he's in. So, yeah. It's was okay, all right, fine, average even. As I said, I have a difficult time with retellings.
Profile Image for Carol Douglas.
Author 12 books93 followers
August 11, 2017
This is a delightful YA book. I didn't want to put it down.

True, I'm a Shakespeare fan, not everything Shakespearean delights me. Falling for Hamlet drew me in with its engaging, believable Ophelia. The names and characters are basically the same as in the play, but the royal family is cast as modern-day Royals.

Hamlet with a hoodie (an idea inspired by a Folger production that I also happened to see) works. He and Ophelia are sex-crazed about each other, but also really in love. Ophelia is still in high school, but neglects her classes because of Hamlet. I admit I'm not a big fan of sex for high schoolers, but it works in this book. I'm a little surprised that Polonius (much nicer than in the play) puts up with them as much as he does.

Hamlet's father is present alive in the beginning of this book, and that also works. Everything works in this entertaining updated version. It's no spoiler to say the Ophelia survives and is the one who tells the story.
Profile Image for Alexandra Hunter.
63 reviews9 followers
December 25, 2011
Hamlet is a story of betrayal, dealing with grief, politics and madness. In the play, Shakespeare is able to hit on many themes and emotions, giving actors much to work with leading to some intense performance from talented actors.

Then there is this book.

Falling for Hamlet takes the story of Hamlet, sloppily butchers it and stuffs the remaining corpse with teen fiction tropes. The book is told from the perspective of Ophelia and how she is so in love with Hamlet... etc... etc... Hamlet is so hot... etc etc. The usual. The core of the story, the atmosphere and the depth has been removed and sacrificed to make the story flashy and hip. Don't get me wrong, rewrites and novelizations of Shakespearian plays can work (For example, Fool by Christopher Moore) but the author needs to take care with what they are doing and how they approach it.

In the case of this novel, it is modernized. It takes place in Denmark probably present day. Ophelia is still the daughter of Polonius, an advisor to the King. She has been friends with Hamlet and Horatio forever. She also has dated Hamlet off and on again, recently getting back together with him at the distain of Gertrude Hamlet's Mother.

So Ophelia? Is she likeable? Meh. Is she relatable? Not in the slightest. On many occasions it is shoved in the Reader's face that Ophelia is hot. She's so hot that she doesn't have to do anything and she will look hot. She's blond, well dressed and lives the celebrity life. But she doesn't want to celebrity life, she wants to be normal. Ophelia is madly in love with Hamlet, which we are constantly reminded of. In the play, Ophelia is a side character. She is in love with Hamlet and Hamlet loves her too, but this isn't that crucial to the story line. Ophelia's purpose is to act as a foil to Hamlet's character and to be a comparison to him and his "decent into madness". In this novel Ophelia comes off as being unbelievable. She reminded me of Bella from Twilight judging her existence on how much Hamlet loves her. Which makes me wonder... Ophelia acknowledges that she is that girl, the girl who drops her friends and her life to run after a boy, does it make it worse that she knows this, or does it make it better in some way?

Then there is Hamlet, as I mentioned earlier, Hamlet is "hot". When we are first introduced to him his main characteristics are that he is hot and he is a great boyfriend. All of Hamlet's story arch becomes unbelievable as his actions are forced.

What really got to me, was how the author tried to incorporate the soliloquies into the novel. This didn't really work. The speeches lost their power after being translated into modern english. All of the eloquence lost. This novel took the plot strands of Hamlet and stripped it down to the bare minimum (the romance, Hamlet going crazy) and simplified the characters. I understand what Michelle Ray was attempting to do here, but it wasn't effective. This novel would have been much better if it wasn't a direct adaptation, instead stood on its own with different character names and different locations (pulling a Lion King if you will).

I highly recommend you take a look at the original play.
Profile Image for Sarah.
6 reviews5 followers
July 19, 2013
I'll be honest--I'm not a Shakespeare fan. Despite reading probably half a dozen of his plays and even seeing a couple, I just can't get into him. But Hamlet was the least painful, so I picked this up. It wasn't what I expected.

It starts out pretty basic: In 21st-century Denmark, Ophelia, daughter of the king's advisor, is dating Prince Hamlet (the author decided not to change any names). Despite their on-off relationship, she's pretty in love with him and is planning a future with him.

Then the king tragically dies, and Hamlet goes off his rocker, especially when his mother marries his creepy uncle only a month after her husband's death. Ophelia is caught between a conniving queen, her father's demands, and her love for the prince.

I will say, I was interested enough to keep going (and sad that my reading time was interrupted by necessities like sleeping and going to work)--the book is definitely gripping. It just isn;t, as it turns out, my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Jessica.
261 reviews12 followers
May 28, 2011
I have to admit that I have never read Hamlet before (I know....gasp right?). In high school I had to read King Lear and after that I never wanted to read Shakespear again! So, it was with great fear and tripidation that I picked this book up!

I LOVED it! Ophelia was a very realistic character! She was strong and yet she loved Hamlet so much that she would almost do anything for him. There were times when I thought she was a little dumb but hey, aren't we all when it comes to love?

Hamlet was sweet and a complete jerk! There were times when I wanted to punch him in the face and times when I wanted to kiss him. When he goes crazy, it is very believable!

I really like Horatio and Sebastian! Horation is the ultimate best friend. He sticks by both Hamlet and Ophelia through thick and thin. Sebastian was also great! I loved that there was a chance for him and Ophelia at the end. He was a huge character but had just enough of a presence.

I really enjoyed how the book went from Ophelia's point of view to the Investigator's interview to the talk show interview. It helped to break the book up a little and just give it a little something different.

Like I said, I haven't ever read the real Hamlet (but I plan to now) but I really liked this book. It gets a 5 out 5 for me (I'm not on my home computer so I don't have my star graphics).
Profile Image for Anissa.
860 reviews258 followers
July 9, 2014
I liked this and as re-imagined re-tellings go, it was pretty good. Hamlet's my favorite Shakespeare so I tend to expect a lot when I actually read a redo. I liked Ophelia's voice and thought it was neat to have an updated setting where everything played out. Media overload, paparazzo, cell phones and the consequences of having a life reduced down to soundbytes, voice mail messages and talk show gossip fodder was well done. I didn't very much like the chapters ending with the police investigation transcript (I didn't think they added a lot to the overall story) but they went by quickly enough. Oddly, I didn't feel terribly connected to Hamlet or his madness here but as Ophelia was the main character, I likely shouldn't have. The twist ending by which she lives and comes back to tell the tale was nice and I found that I even wanted her to go on and have happiness with Sebastian. Denmark seemed like a glittering backdrop but that may just have been the royal court swaying me. I'm glad I read this and it was a quick read so I'd definitely recommend it to fans of the original work who like re-imagined re-tellings.
Profile Image for Abbie.
1,526 reviews
January 5, 2015
We hadn't discussed Hamlet in high school but I know enough to feel disappointed about this Shakespeare retelling.

I felt that the characters weren't portrayed with enough depth and that the explanation for everyone's actions was shallow and so unlike the original. By modernizing the story it all seemed too unbelievable and boring for me.

I also didn't like how Ophelia was portrayed because at times she seemed liked a complete idiot. And I felt that Hamlet's character wasn't given justice. He was supposed to be grief-stricken and depressed over his dad's passing which would explain his unusual behavior. But here, well...I just didn't care for the execution. I enjoyed the beginning of the book though, and thought it had potential.
Profile Image for Britta.
322 reviews54 followers
August 18, 2011
I have never read, nor seen the play, Hamlet. I know I probably should, and I want to, but I've been holding off because I know it is required reading next school year. But that's irrelevant. The point is, this review is not going to be me dissecting the novel and comparing Michelle Ray's words to Shakespeare's. Not only would that be ridiculous, but I have no grounds to do that. I will say that from what I know of the basic plot of Hamlet, Falling for Hamlet was pretty spot-on in some points, and different in others. As the author points out in her Author's note, the play isn't called Ophelia, and since she is the main character in Falling for Hamlet, of course things were changed. Now that I'm done ranting (which I hope didn't turn you off from this review), I'll actually get to how wonderful this modern-day retelling of Hamlet is.

I really enjoyed this book. Unlike the play, Falling for Hamlet takes place before things start getting all crazy. I found myself so immersed in the characters and their lives and their stories right from the opening page that I completely forgot what was about to come. When tragedy hits and the madness begins, I was just as shocked as all of the characters. I was really that interested by the words. As the story progresses into the horrible events that make up a Shakespearian tragedy, even though I was emotional enough to scare anyone away, I kept reading. I kept flipping the pages because Ms. Ray's words made me care.

In Michelle Ray's author's note, she says this, "My purpose in writing Falling for Hamlet, besides entertaining myself in asking the many 'what if' questions, was the hope that readers would become more interested in Hamlet". I can honestly say, that in my opinion, she succeeded in reaching that goal. The writing was not only at a simple level of understanding, but it was also captivating. Because of this, I found myself crushed in the end. Why? Because I cared. I really cared about the characters. More so than any Shakespearian play has made me feel before. I know that this is a retelling, and not the original, but the point is that going forward, when I do finally read/see Hamlet, I will care. I will already relate to the characters, and I have Michelle Ray to thank for that.

I know this review is on the longer side and has been filled with words bordering on ranting, but I really do hope that I encouraged you to pick up this book. As Ms. Elizabeth Eulberg (author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice) so cleverly says in her blurb, "To read or not to read will never be the question for Falling for Hamlet". I totally agree.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,616 reviews79 followers
December 28, 2011
What's the one word that I had ringing through my head after I read this book?


I did not like the ending. I didn't like the way people behaved. I didn't like the violence. I didn't like the romance between Ophelia and Hamlet. Basically, there were a lot of things I wished had been different.

The first part of this book was a completely different pace than the second half, which seemed to whip by. I thought there was too of the crazy relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet. I didn't see why there had to be so much build up, I get that they're crazy about each other, can we move on? I was tired of hearing Ophelia rant about Hamlet, I just wanted them to stop thinking of the other person. I got a little sick of the constant love/hate/love/hate turmoil between them.

I think the reason this book was so disturbing to me was because of the drastic results of corruption and the amount of people who got hurt. I just wanted the corruption to stop. I didn't see why everything had to happen like that. I know it's based on the Shakespeare play, Hamlet (and I admit that my recollection of that plot is not good) but I did not like this interpretation. I didn't like the destruction of the characters and the conclusion. I don't want to go into great details because I don't want to add any spoilers, but I just did not like the ending at all! It wasn't necessary and I felt like there wasn't a point to the story after I had finished reading it. I read the entire book to have some sort of satisfying conclusion or a moment of peace - but there was absolutely nothing and I was just left with that depressing finale. Totally Not Satisfying.

I also thought it was unrealistic how much the book relied on Ophelia and all the people that loved her. Near the end I felt like practically everyone had been driven to madness because of Ophelia. Really? I didn't care for those sections of the book at all. The questioning seemed like an added filler to the story, and I didn't think it really helped move the plot along. I didn't appreciate the sexual content in this book. Needless to say, I would not recommend this book.

*Taken from my book reviews blog: http://reviewsatmse.blogspot.com/2011...
Profile Image for Jasmine.
498 reviews18 followers
February 7, 2017
A contemporary re-imagining of Shakespeare's Hamlet, told from the perspective of Ophelia, Hamlet's long-time on-again-off-again-on-again girlfriend. Her relationship with the Prince of Denmark is high-profile and her life is constantly under watch. When Hamlet begins to fall into madness after the mysterious death of his father, Ophelia finds herself and her entire world falling with him.

Hamlet was one of those Shakespeare plays I had to read that I had a hard time understanding. Everyone kept saying 'it's basically The Lion King!' While Disney's classic shares a lot of similar concepts as Shakespeare's classic, they are not entirely the same. I'm not sure if I should feel guilty for reading OMG Shakepeare's srsly Hamlet prior to this to re-familiarize myself with the plot, but it actually helped a lot.

It's already given away by the synopsis that Ophelia lives to tell the tale of what really happened with the Royal family, so I didn't have to worry about her dying as I found myself really liking her. This is one of those books that I needed to read because it reminds me that sometimes, no matter how hard you ship some couples, they won't always turn up daisies and rainbows in the end. Hamlet, similar to Shakespeare's original main man, is the kind of person you just want to scream at, saying 'WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU.' Believe it or not, this story stays pretty darn close to the original plot, but Michelle Ray takes key moments from the play and twists them in a very unique way to tell her version of the story (very cool).

Ophelia was very relatable, which is probably why I liked her so much. She's so strong and would do anything for love. She may have been stupid at times, but hey, aren't we all when it comes to love? (especially teenage love). There were plenty of times when I questioned her actions - 'what if she decided differently...maybe none of this would have ever happened...' but such is life, right? The story is told in three different ways - Ophelia's TV interview/public re-telling of events, The truth from her perspective during the actual events, and in an interrogation room with two detectives vs. Ophelia. This is probably what got me hooked and on the edge of my seat because I wanted to know the truth - what happened? Was it all Ophelia's fault? Was she the mastermind?

Really awesome contemporary re-telling for Shakespeare lovers!
Profile Image for Anastasia.
214 reviews16 followers
June 27, 2011

Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend's fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.
Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia. (Synopsis provided by goodreads)

First off let me say that Hamlet is my work by Shakespeare.
I LOVED this re-telling. Ray's Ophelia is a fun witty coffee obsessed character. I loved being able to see the story through her eyes and see how she delt with everything that was going on. I never saw Hamlet as a sympathetic character in the original play, but Ray portrays him as one. Seeing how her Hamlet deals with the murder of the king, the remarriage of his mother and his relationship with Ophelia was truly enjoyable.
The twist with having Ophelia on a talk show telling her version of the events was interesting I loved how Ray told the story and the way her version of the classic characters came to life on the page. I would love to hang out with her characters all of them had a new fresh life about them.

I really liked how Ray incorporated some scenes and lines from the original play, I was particularly interested to see how she would incorporate Hamlets famous "To be or not be." I was so excited to see that also included Hamlet telling Ophelia to be a nun and Ophelia's speech when she goes crazy about flowers and the line 'Rosemary that's for remembrance'. It was a very cool way that they were included. I absolutely loved the whole story and I look forward to more of Ray's works, I really hope she writes more re-tellings of Shakespeare.
This is one of my favorite reads this year!

Overall rating ***** 5 out of 5 stars
Cover art Love the cover art the black and white contrasted by the gold and red of the throne is awesome.
Obtained: My personal book shelf. (Received my pre-order a few weeks early)
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,729 reviews295 followers
December 5, 2012
Not going to lie, I was a little unsure going into this book. I was actually sure I was going to hate it. A retelling of Hamlet, but from Ophelia's point of view. Yes, Ophelia, the same Ophelia who dies in the original story. Intrigued yet?

Falling For Hamlet takes Shakespeare's work and turns it into a modern day girl in love with a prince story. Throw in a little drama, family problems (a whole lot of them), and a little murder and you have yourself a story.

Ophelia, a high school girl, lives in the palace with her father who works for the King and Queen. Oh, and she's madly in love with Hamlet, with who she has an on and off and on and off again relationship with. Hamlet is your wild child college boy prince who just wants to do what he wants, but yet can't seem to stay away from Ophelia. The beginning of the book is a little slow honestly. Just basically follows our two lovebirds as they fall in and out of love, go to school, etc. But all that changes when the King is killed.

Ray does a good job of keeping the main elements of Hamlet - brother killing brother, son driven mad, chaos ensuing. There were times when I was annoyed with both Hamlet and Ophelia. Hamlet just because he was an arrogant son of a bitch most of the time, but Ophelia - i felt that most of her unhappiness was brought on by herself. Her position could have been so easily changed, but she kept going back to the same situations. I just wanted to smack her upside her head.

It wasn't until the death of Ophelia's father that the book really took off. I don't think I had ever felt so much dread reading a book before. And let me just say, I apparently did not remember the ending of Hamlet, because when , I was just like WTF just happened?? The way that whole scene was written...I just couldn't stop reading.

Add in an amazingly written Horatio, chapters beginning with a talk show interview and ending with an interrogation, Falling For Hamlet is a great tale of what if.
Profile Image for Sarah Maddaford.
762 reviews10 followers
July 29, 2011
As a novel on its own, this worked fairly well. As a retelling of Hamlet, there were some rather glaring flaws and awkward parts. The story is from Ophelia's point-of-view in a modern Denmark where the tragedy has already occurred. She tells the story in three different ways: to a talk show audience, to the reader (to whom she says she is giving the complete truth) and to the police. This formatting of each chapter is weird in the beginning, but it actually flows fairly well once you get into the book. Unfortunately, in the actual play, Ophelia dies before everyone except her father yet she joins Horatio in escaping death in this book. It leads to some rather interesting assumptions on the part of the police, but other than that I can't really see the point other than providing a more divergent point of view. Horatio would basically have a very similar role today that he would have had in the play. Ophelia's role is extremely different having to play to the press as well as act like a proper lady for the queen and the court.
There were a couple things that didn't work for me at all. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern felt awkward in the extreme even in their assassinations. Switching fencing out for lacrosse was just odd (how would you not notice an altered lacrosse stick?). And how did Horatio fail to get a message to Laertes with all the random methods of communication available to him?
There was dying and violence a plenty, and I seem to recall the f-bomb. I would certainly be slinging it around if my mom married my father's brother even not knowing he had poisoned my father. There were definitely hints that neither Ophelia nor Hamlet were virgins, but I don't think there was actually any sex in the story.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Savannah (Books With Bite).
1,399 reviews185 followers
July 22, 2011
As soon as I got this book, I dove right into and love it! I mean really, really love it. I have always been a fan Shakespeare, and I love it when author take a classic and make it modern. It makes it easy for young readers and readers everywhere to understand Hamlet but just told different.

Pretty much this book it told almost exactly to play expect of course much more modern. I love diving into this story and being Ophelia. Ms. Ray really brought this story to life by the reader being read too. The reader meets Ophelia, and she is on stage telling her story through an TV interview. I like this cause it made me feel like I was in the audience observing Ophelia and hearing her story play out for my ears. With Ms. Ray writing, it is easy to read and super easy to understand. Most people don't read Shakespeare cause of the difficulty of understanding it but Ms. Ray did a a divine job letting the reader immerse themselves in the story.

The plot line of course is pure drama. Love, hate, betrayal, death. Everything in a Shakespearean that you would normally see. I loved watching all of the characters play their roles and get into trouble. What I like the most is the love in this book. No, there is no happy ending. And the love in this book is just dreadful. But the love that was being fought for, I liked. The struggle of two star crossed lovers just trying to be normal, I loved reading.

If you liked to read a modern day Shakespearean play, with loads of drama, read this book. I can't tell you how many times I tried to put down this book but could not. My eyes refused to leave the pages that Ms. Ray presented and I devoured this book whole in one sitting!

Profile Image for Jess.
212 reviews7 followers
April 19, 2012
It was the coincidence of GoodReads recommending this to me based on my young adult shelf and my local library just happening to order it that led to me picking up this book...and I probably should have ignored the recommendation. I get what Ray is trying to do - reclaim Ophelia's story and make Hamlet accessible to the kids by placing it into the context of celebrity, fame and digital culture that they understand - but it felt forced to me at times. That being said, I think for a younger reader it might just achieve Ray's goal - and I can't really criticise someone for wanting the kids to read more Shakespeare. But Shakespeare done properly is better and more accessible and modern than any reimagining can make it. Quite frankly, the Royal Shakespeare Company's version with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart is unbeatable - and in the filmed version of it they also use the concept of surveillance that Ray uses her reimagining. With the exception of the textspeak, which was illogical and nonsensical in its abbreviations (personally, I like to spell things like "home" out properly), this is not a badly written book. I'm just not its target audience.

Oh, and I'm trying not to be Ms Judgypants each time I see a review that mentions that the reviewer hasn't read Hamlet (or at least seen a production of it). Please, do yourself a favour and go back to the source material! And if you are going to watch a film version, the RSC version mentioned above or Kenneth Branagh's 1996 version (available in two and complete three hour edits) is perhaps definitive (Kate Winslet as Ophelia - come on!).
Profile Image for Dee.
24 reviews
July 21, 2015
Awful. Just awful. I know a lot of people seemed to like this book but it took me over a week to read and for a contemporary YA that is just far too long.
This is why I hated this book.

1. It takes place in Denmark but just seems like all of this takes place in Anytown U.S.A. as a person with family outside of America and having traveled somewhat extensively I have noticed that what young people do for fun varies by region and all these kids did was sit on grass, go for coffee and eat at Daney's (Daney's really??). I felt that no research was done regarding the likes and interests of Danish youth. It made the story seem so flat.
2. Ophelia was just so useless, insipid and downright dumb. She was the narrator in this retelling and our heroine but she offered nothing to the story. She obsessed over Hamlet, never seemed to notice when something seemed suspicious and practically bored me to tears. She claimed to love Hamlet but offered no real reason why, which leads me to believe that she just wanted him because of who he was. And as soon as things get tough with H she decides to get it on with the poor sap who had been pining over her for years. It was ridiculous.
3. The police interrogation scenes were laughable. It's like the author never even watched an episode of Law and Order.
4. The Oprah-esque interview scenes were almost as bad as the interrogation scenes but they were fairly well written, if not unnecessary.
There were so many things that just made this book awful but it would take days for me to list them all.
Profile Image for Christy.
73 reviews
August 31, 2011
3.75 Stars...

This book was not easy to put down that's for sure. It's a mystery (though not really because we all know the story of Hamlet) and therefore has many twists and turns and it follows the story of Hamlet with a modern day take. It's different too, which keeps you wondering. I was engrossed in the story and the characters, and was hoping that it would have a happy ending, but it did not. In the end, I of course shed many tears and was left feeling depressed. Ophelia's life was torn to shreads, and you felt that. How someone would recover from everything she went through is I dare say impossible.
There are many good things that you can learn from this book too. Learning from her example of things not to do or to do. I love in the last chapter at the end of the book, where she lists the things that she learned. It's a great list and one that I'm sure I'll look back on from time to time. Good book, definitely recommendable and worth reading.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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