Yesterday, the angelic forces of Amazon Prime delivered Ryan North’s new book Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure to my door. I’ve spent most of today lost in the book, trying to pick my own way through one of Shakespeare’s most classic plays. As the day wore on, I began debating whether or not to write about my experience with this book for my blog too. Then I had a revelation! I was facing a CHOICE here. I had to CHOOSE whether or not I wanted to write about this book. My revelation seemed to scream what I should do. So here we are. But you get to choose too! You see, you can decide whether or not you want to read this. If you don’t , please return to your regular life. Be happy and live peacefully. OR you can read how my day with Romeo and/or Juliet went and just possibly live happier and more peacefully. The choice is yours!
In retrospect, writing about this book seems an obvious choice. I’ve been a huuuuuge fan of Ryan North’s for years. If you aren’t already familiar with his Dinosaur Comics you may want to stop reading this and go check those out now. I love them. If you were to casually peruse the images I’ve contributed to the group message I’m in with my friends from work, you’d see a whole lot of Star Wars GIFs and just as many (probably even a few more) Dinosaur Comics. I also love his work on Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I can assure you a future post about how much I adore that comic (and why everyone should read it too!) is already in the drafting stages. He has such a unique written voice and his brand of humor is a wild and unpredictable mix of laugh-out-loud hilarious and deeply intellectual. Any one of his Dinosaur Comics can just as easily reference the intricacies of Theodicy as a Batman vs. Sherlock Holmes detective-off. (Note: when you’re reading Ryan North it’s wise to always bet on Batman.)
When I can combine a writer who I love so much with a modern incarnation of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books I loved as a kid, I kind of knew this was going to be an A++ hit for me. Man, I loved those books!! The control of the narrative was just so much fun. My brother and I had a bunch of those books as kids and I read as many of them as I could find. I even had Joe Dever’s whole Lone Wolf: A Role Playing Adventure series too! Those books took the whole choose-your-own-adventure idea and applied to a whole series where some of your choices followed you through all the books! It was like life…except it had waaaay more magic and dragons and mystical adventures. Then, a few years ago, I found Heather McElhatton’s Million Little Mistakes – a contemporary adult choose-your-own adventure novel that opens with you winning $22 million in the lottery. You take control of the story from there. This was how I learned I should never win a lot of money. My first time through I died miserable, penniless, and alone. Yikes! At least one time I managed to have a whirlwind romance with and an emotional roller coaster of a marriage to George Clooney.
But I’m digressing. As I said above, I spent most of the day reading Romeo and/or Juliet. and having even more fun than I expected. Fun, yes…productive, not always. My first attempt at navigating the life of these two star-crossed love birds wasn’t a good one. I died. Quickly. Kalie supportively commented from the couch, “Wow…you died fast.” Thanks Love! I then cleverly decided to employ the Costanza Maneuver. Like George, if every instinct I have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. I’ve learned two very important things. First, doing the opposite of my instinct makes the book a lot more fun. Second, reading Romeo and Juliet this way makes SHAKESPEARE a lot more fun. So basically, everyone wins.
My words can’t begin to do the wit and wisdom of Sir Ryan North (has he been knighted?…I bet he has – no one can do this much good for and with Shakespeare without being recognized by the Queen) justice. So allow me to quote a little from the introduction to the book:
When Shakespeare sat down to write Romeo and Juliet, he had a choice: he could make up his own story, or he could flip through this book, Romeo and/or Juliet, and just stone-cold copy down what he read. As we now know, he chose the latter. This book he plagiarized from was lost until recently, when I found it again. It was just over there. Someone had put a coat over it, which I think is why we didn’t notice it earlier.
Romeo and/or Juliet is presented here with the original text, unaltered from when Shakespeare stole it. All we’ve added are some rad illustrations, and we also put adorable little hearts next to the choices Shakespeare made when plagiarizing the book. That way if you follow that path when you make a choice, you’ll get the same play that Shakespeare ended up with! However, that is not the only story in this book, and honestly, a lot of the others are way better. Feel free to explore your other options, as there are over 46,012,475,909,287,476 distinct adventures contained within this book!
Now imagine 400 pages that are just as much fun! And you get to pick your path through the book! AND you get to be either Romeo, Juliet, or both! Also, they aren’t kidding about the number of options the book has (although, admittedly, I haven’t counted them all to double check the math). In all seriousness, it took me a whole day of reading until I finally got Romeo and Juliet to meet. So the permutations of the story are vast. I have been laughing all day too. I’m not talking a faux-lol sort of situation here either. I’m talking loud, attention-grabbing guffaws. I have a noticeable laugh…as anyone who’s ever been to the movies with me can attest. (I still don’t know how to get on the list to be invited to the Hollywood premiers of comedies…I’m the guy they want in the audience!) Well, tonight Kalie and I went to Coffee Culture for an evening out of reading and writing. This book had me laughing embarrassingly loud all night long – and I don’t embarass easily so that tells you a little about how loud I was laughing. As the evening progressed, the crowd began to thin out, although I’ll chalk that up to our being there until nearly closing time and not my thunderous chortles echoing around the place. Or, most realistically, those people probably heard me laugh, subtly looked to see what I was reading, and then went to find their own copy. I wish them well on their journey!
In fact, now I kind of want you to wish me well on my journey. Because, I could keep writing about how much fun this book is but I’d rather get back to reading it myself! So, to close, I know this isn’t a comic book per say and I tend to focus on writing about comic books on this blog BUT Ryan North is a comic book writer so I’m counting it. More importantly, a lot of the wonderful people I’ve met since joining the blogging community (not to mention my own friends and family who (I believe) read this too (at least that’s what they tell me…)) love to read. And this is a fun book. If you love Shakespeare and would love to experience him in a way you’ve never imagined you need to check this out. Or if you just like laughing-so-hard-you-can’t-stop then you need to check this out. How about this? Because I desperately want to get back to the book, let’s just say – if you love reading and/or enjoying yourself then you should think about buying this. Here, I’ll even help you out a little. This is the link to buy the book on Amazon. See? How easy was that? Now all that’s left is for you to decide whether or not you buy the book. Again, as with life in general and everything in Romeo and/or Juliet specifically, the choice is up to you.