If you’ve ever read “Romeo and Juliet” and wondered “Why did they do that?!” at any point in the play, then “Romeo and/or Juliet” is the book for you.
“Romeo and/or Juliet” combines the well-known play with a choose-your-own-adventure style of writing, and it does that quite well.
It’s written by Ryan North, who worked on many popular comics and comedy shows such as “Adventure Time” and “Dinosaur Comics.”
The book starts by stating that Shakespeare’s play wasn’t in fact original. Rather he just took his choices from this book and wrote a play following them.
North uses this claim of “plagiarism” to his advantage by highlighting Shakespeare’s choices so the reader can follow what he did. This path is great because it summarizes “Romeo and Juliet” effectively, but also manages to do it in modern English and with a sense of humor.
But being a choose-your-own-adventure book, “Romeo and/or Juliet” also allows you to make your own choices and see how the story unfolds. Perhaps instead of taking Shakespeare’s route and focusing on Romeo at the start, you want to see what Juliet’s doing.
Romeo and Juliet are both exaggerated and changed. Romeo is a lovestruck weakling with no foresight whereas Juliet is, as the book puts it, “actually SUPER RIPPED.”
And even beyond the two main characters, you can play as secret characters that you have to “unlock.” As the back of the book says, “That’s right. We figured out how to have unlockable characters in books.”
But past choosing whom you want to focus on, you get to choose what they do. Does Romeo want to talk to Benvolio, or does he actually want to avoid conversation by hiding in a trash can? You decide.
Naturally, most choices will affect the ending of your story. When I/Romeo chose to choke to death on my breakfast, I/Romeo (big surprise) choked to death on my breakfast.
But not all endings are as straightforward. There are dozens to discover.
The weirdest ending I reached in my five-or-so hours of reading was the one in which Juliet uses Romeo’s corpse as a weapon against ninjas but is ultimately defeated.
I honestly have no idea how it came to that.
To top it off, each ending is brilliantly illustrated. There’s a team of about 90 artists, who each drew one ending. Each artist has his/her own style, which makes for quite the collection of illustrations.
The book also includes two mini-stories that follow the plots of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Pyramus and Thisbe” (the play within the play of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”). They’re both enjoyable as side stories.
All in all, “Romeo and/or Juliet” is a great read. You can get a funny summary of the actual play, or you can venture off the beaten path and find out how Romeo became Juliet’s glove – literally!