Yes, this is the second middle grade contemporary novel I've reviewed in a week. Gasp! What's up with that? Two things: I'm kind of in the mood for light and fluffy fare right now. And I'm going to be teaching a 4-6 literature class in a homeschool co-op next year, so I'm catching up on what's going on in genres that aren't fantasy. This past Sunday I read The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne.
To die or not to die of utter mortification . . . Hamlet Kennedy just wants to be your average, happy, vanilla eighth grader. But with Shakespearean scholar parents who dress in Elizabethan regalia and generally go about in public as if it were the sixteenth century, that’s not terribly easy. It gets worse when they decide that Hamlet’s genius seven year-old sister will attend middle school with her— and even worse when the Shakespeare project is announced and her sister is named the new math tutor. By the time an in-class recitation reveals that our heroine is an extraordinary Shakespearean actress, Hamlet can no longer hide from the fact that she—like her family—is anything but average.
I found this book highly enjoyable. Hamlet is a character very easy to relate to. Her quirky family, friendships, troubles with boys, jealousies and rivalries will strike a chord with anyone who is or ever was in middle school.
This is not what I liked best though. What did I like best? Hamlet has parents who love and support her. They are good parents. (Yes, good parents in a MG novel. Who would have thought it possible?) They are sometimes consumed with their own lives but they do talk to their kids and attempt to make changes where needed. Also, the drama in the book is typical to life. There was no overly dramatic climax to steal away the reality of the book.
Many mentions of A Midsummer Night's Dream abound so it gets extra points for that as well.
Definitely a good recommendation for 5th-8th girls, but I can see it having a wider appeal as well.