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Book Review: William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls (Pop Shakespeare Book 1)
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Much Ado About Mean Girls book review

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls
Pop Shakespeare Series (Book 1)
Paperback | Kindle Edition | Audiobook
Written by Ian Doescher
Illustrations by Kent Barton
Inspired by the work of Tina Fey and William Shakespeare
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: April 23, 2019

The William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series of books has been a big hit for Quirk Books, where writer Ian Doescher adapted the highly popular installments of the Star Wars saga into the style of a Shakespearean play. If only high school English requirements could be this fun!

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the publisher is now branching out with a new Pop Shakespeare series that will tackle other popular films in the same manner. And what better way to launch this spin-off series than with a story that takes place in high school?

For William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls, the author playfully gives Tina Fey’s 2004 big-screen teen comedy Mean Girls the Shakespearean treatment, where, sadly, “fetch” still hasn’t caught on. But when it comes to Doescher’s ability to cleverly and faithfully convert our favorite movies into Shakespearean masterpieces, the limit doth not exist.

In Mean Girls, written by and co-starring SNL alum Tina Fey, teenaged Cady Heron (played by Lindsay Lohan) goes from being homeschooled overseas all of her life by her American zoologist parents to being enrolled for the first time in a U.S. public school. She very quickly discovers that the high school politics and socials etiquettes in Evanston, IL, USA, are much fiercer than the wilds of Africa where she grew up. She joins forces with two outcasts who help her infiltrate the coolest clique in school, the Plastics — the title “mean girls” who rule the school — in an effort to take them down. But the more Cady associates with the Plastics, the more conflicted she becomes about who she really is. Her insidious actions and gossip-mongering eventually disrupts the pecking-order within the student body, opening up old wounds and causing chaos but also forcing the teenagers to confront their issues.

The film, which celebrated the 15th anniversary of its theatrical release last week, was a hit at the box office and has since gone on to gain cult classic status, thanks in part to its memorable bits of dialogue — “The limit does not exist,” “You go, Glen Coco!,” “On Wednesdays we wear pink” — all of which are present in the book, albeit translated into Elizabethan English. For instance, throughout the story, Plastics member Gretchen Wieners keeps saying “That is so fetch!” in hopes of creating a new catchphrase, but Plastics leader and ultimate mean girl Regina George eventually puts an end to her friend’s attempts. “Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen,” Regina snaps. “It’s not going to happen.” In the book, Gretchen’s catchphrase becomes “‘Tis fetch!” with Regina’s rejection continuing for four lines, beginning with “Nay, Gretchen, ‘fetch’ shall never catch, Stop hosting an event no one attends.”

Mean Girls not only had themes presented in Shakespeare’s plays, but throughout it had the students studying Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in their English class. In her report on the book, Gretchen complains about Caesar’s tyrannical ways, clearing alluding to Regina, while relegating herself to the role of Brutus, Caesar’s less-powerful and ultimately backstabbing friend. “What’s so great about Caesar, hmm? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar….” Gretchen rants, suggesting, “We should totally just stab Caesar!” Gretchen’s rant is perfect in the form of the bard’s preferred iambic pentameter verse, while the entire scenario makes William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls even more meta.

Because of the differences between film and stage, Doescher swaps in asides, a chorus, and balcony scenes for the cinematic first-person narration and multiple scenery changes. This retelling also incorporates elements from the bard’s popular works, such as Much Ado About Nothing (on which the book’s title is based), Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet, to name a few.

If you’ve never seen Mean Girls, you might want to be familiar with 16th century anachronisms in order to fully understand what’s happening in the book. If you’re not already familiar, then there’s a helpful Reader’s Guide included in the back that explains the language and structure of the play, as well as the hallmarks of Shakespeare’s writing style. The author’s Afterword reveals how he paired some of the Mean Girls characters with those of Shakespeare’s, as well as the methods and rationale behind how he turned this modern-day comedy into a humorous archaic play.

Throughout Much Ado About Mean Girls are woodcut-style illustrations from Kent Barton that highlight some of the popular aspects of the film, like the Burn Book, Candygrams, the talent show, and the school bus incident. Fans of the movie will appreciate not only how the Mean Girls tale has been transformed here, but also the accompanying artwork, layout, and design, all of which adds to the book’s overall novelty and enjoyability.

Power struggles. Bitter rivalries. Jealousy. Betrayals. Star-crossed lovers. When you consider all these plot points, it’s pretty surprising William Shakespeare didn’t write Mean Girls. But now fans can treat themselves to the epic drama—and heroic hilarity—of the classic teen comedy rendered with the wit, flair, and iambic pentameter of the Bard. Our heroine Cady disguises herself to infiltrate the conniving Plastics, falls for off-limits Aaron, struggles with her allegiance to newfound friends Damian and Janis, and stirs up age-old vendettas among the factions of her high school. Best-selling author Ian Doescher brings his signature Shakespearean wordsmithing to this cult classic beloved by generations of teen girls and other fans. Now, on the 15th anniversary of its release, Mean Girls is a recognized cultural phenomenon, and it’s more than ready for an Elizabethan makeover.

Much Ado About Mean Girls book cover

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