Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: "Spanking Shakespeare"

Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
3 out of 5 stars

This book caught my eye one day when I was browsing "Shakespeare" on Goodreads, trying to find a Classic a Month, and I thought it looked amusing. Which it absolutely is. On an extremely superficial level. I can see young, teenage boys loving it. So it's good for something, right? I enjoyed it but I'm glad I checked it out at the library. :)

Shakespeare Shapiro is saddled with a horrendous name from his parents and it has affected his life more than he cares to admit. And now, in his senior year of high school, he must come to terms with it once and for all and decide if it is going to continue ruling his life. Shakespeare goes to a prestigious high school which requires all seniors to write a memoir of sorts and he attacks his with crude humor and cringe-worthy honesty. With chapter titles such as "The Time I Got Caught with a Pornographic Magazine in Math Class" and "The Time My Mother Used Emotional Blackmail to Deprive Me of the Only Thing I Ever Really Wanted", you can tell he's really going for the shock value here. He was born on Hitler's birthday, his brother is named Gandhi, and his parents are "anti-rules".

My brother and I were difficult children, but much of this was due to my parents' complete ineptitude. 

But things are not all bad for Shakespeare...he has an English teacher who really believes in his talent and encourages it, he has 2 very good friends (although one is overly-obsessed with his bowel movements), and he gets the girl he desperately wants, in the end (although maybe not the one he knew he wanted). And there are some surprisingly sensitive moments, like when he befriends a quiet girl who seems to have much more serious problems than being sent to a Lord of the Flies-esque summer camp. (Side note: I laughed out loud when he described the Coma Game: no moving, no sound, basically being dead. We taught our young, 5-6 years, sisters how to play Cemetery from Daria lol. (skip to 14:45) They still remember it!)

As Shakespeare gets to know Charlotte, the quiet girl, he realizes that maybe he doesn't have it so bad after all. I mean yeah, he definitely has his issues, but there's always someone out there with it worse. And I think that's what makes this a good read for teenagers, boys in particular. They'll laugh at all the sex jokes and potty humor, but they'll also commiserate with Shakespeare's girl problems, realize maybe their parents aren't so bad after all, and consider why exactly they won't accept help when offered.

The truth is I know exactly why I'm resistant. I don't want a therapist to tell me things about myself I don't want to hear, and I don't want to admit that I have problems I can't deal with myself. It would be one thing if I could just go in and complain about my life, but having to confront and take responsibility for my shortcomings and insecurities is something I have no interest in.

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