Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Title: Kissing Shakespeare
Author: Pamela Mingle
Genre: YA Fiction
Publishing Information: 352 pages; August 14, 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Series: Standalone

Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

"Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school's staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide.

Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she'd like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he's a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen's really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lost its greatest playwright.

Miranda isn't convinced she's the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it's her only chance of getting back to the present and her "real" life. What Miranda doesn't bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required"

Main characters: 3/5

My initial reaction to Miranda was not favorable. She complained a lot about her parents and her life, and I didn't find her thoughts regarding her own acting to be very mature. Miranda's initial reaction to the time travel was also unbelievable and over-the-top, which turned me off of her for the first bit of the book. I did see signs of life, however, such as when Miranda whacked Stephen with the tree branch at the beginning.
But Miranda began to change over her time in the 16th century and I appreciated her rate of change and the fact that it wasn't easy. It was a steady change, not exceptionally crazy or too slow. I liked learning more about her relationship with her parents and the fact that Stephen questioned what she had assumed to be true. 
Ultimately, there was nothing particularly memorable about Miranda, but her slow and steady change turned her into a more layered character at the end of the book.

Secondary characters: 3/5

At the beginning of the novel, Stephen seemed stuffy and lacked a personality. However, similar to Miranda, he grew on me as the novel progressed. He didn't take shit from Miranda and had his own personal conflicts which added complexity to him as a character. I also liked that he and Miranda didn't have "insta-love" which is always refreshing. One pet peeve though is that he was deliberately mysterious which got on my nerves. For example, Stephen would tell Miranda something about the time travel and then when she questioned further he would say, "Oh, I can't tell you". That's frustrating for Miranda and for the reader. If you're holding on to information for later, then keep it more subtle!
While I liked Stephen more and more as the novel went on, I found that Shakespeare fell lackluster. I liked that he was less the main character of the novel and more of a secondary character, but he lacked a lot of depth that I think Mingle could have added even though he is an important historical and literary figure. 
Writing style: 2.5/5

As with some of the young adult books these days, Mingle's writing style wasn't particularly descriptive or what some may call "literary". That being said, the novel moved along at a good clip. At some points, this was appreciated but at other points, such as before the time travel and immediately after, I wish Mingle had spent a little more time explaining and going into more depth on the action. Some things could have been written with more subtlety, for instance Stephen is described as as looking "exhausted, like maybe this powerful magic was wearing him down. And there was an infinite sadness in his eyes, along with something else. Vulnerability." This was a little heavy-handed and could have been taken down a notch. There were also a few cases where lot of stuff is thrown at the reader with no time spent on it. It's possible that we were meant to put ourselves in Miranda's place and be overwhelmed with her, but if this was the case, it could have been executed better. 

Plot: 3/5

The plot was decidedly unoriginal, but there were some cute and unexpected moments. I liked the fact that Miranda's challenge was to keep the future the same by seducing Shakespeare, that was one of the unique aspects. Also, integrating the religious turmoil of the time added depth and I could tell that Mingle had really done her research. It made the plot more than just some throw-away and created conflict with deep meaning. One knock that I had was that I saw everything coming a mile away. And I do mean everything. Toward the end, the scheming seemed to resemble its own Shakespeare play, which I also really enjoyed.

Ending: 3/5

Without spoiling, I liked that it didn't end on that "denouement" (pardon the English major term that I learned this week) where everything wraps up all neat and pretty. I felt like the characters had improved throughout the novel and I really enjoyed where Miranda ended up personally.
Best scene: When Miranda smacked Stephen with a branch

Positives: Good and steady change of the characters, some interesting plot points and surprising complexity

Negatives: Writing style, unoriginal, saw everything coming, unmemorable characters

Cover: Really pretty actually. I was surprised by how much I liked this cover

Verdict: A fun and cute time-travel story with a couple unique twists, but mostly sub-par writing and characters

Rating: 5.8/10 (3 stars)

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