Title: New Boy
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Crown Publishing (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Start Date: June 2, 2017
End Date: June 4, 2017
Rating: 3-3.5 stars
I enjoyed Tracy Chevalier’s take on Othello. Chevalier’s take led us to a schoolyard in the 1970s, a time when racial tensions are running high. Osei is the new black boy in this predominantly white school, and he knows that in order to survive, he will need to make a friend. He quickly meets Dee, who talks to Osei, and they become fast friends. However, Osei soon learns that you can’t trust everyone, and as tensions increase, so do the stakes.
I thought Chevalier’s New Boy was very well done. It loosely followed the same story line as Othello, but I thought she introduced several unique twists. The story takes place over the course of a single day, with each “Act” divided into playground times: Before School, Morning Recess, Lunch, Afternoon Recess, After School, which I thought was a great way to break up the drama of the story.
However, I thought the names were too obvious, though that was a good way to directly compare the actions of the characters in Shakespeare’s Othello with Chevalier’s New Boy. [For example: Othello became Osei, Desdemona became Dee, Iago became Ian, Emilia became Mimi, Bianca became Blanca, Cassio became Casper, Roderigo became Rod, and Brabanzio (Desdemona’s father) became Mr. Brabant (Dee’s principle).]
The characters themselves were interesting and pretty well-developed – well, as developed as fifth graders are, at least. The plot itself was interesting enough, though watching Osei become increasingly deceived by his “friend” was heartbreaking. These are the storylines I find particularly frustrating because you know what all of the characters are thinking, but you can’t explain to them that they are being deceived and are trusting the wrong people. But that’s the point of the story. Othello is deceived by Iago just as Osei is deceived by Ian.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and characters, though I was not a fan of their actions, just as I was not a fan of the actions of the characters in Shakespeare’s original play, Iago/Ian in particular.
Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for a free copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review.
Tracy Chevalier’s New Boy is one in a series of retellings of William Shakespeare plays published by Hogarth Shakespeare by well-known authors. Among these include:
- The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson – The Winter’s Tale
- Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson – The Merchant of Venice
- Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler – The Taming of the Shrew
- Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood – The Tempest
- New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – Othello
- Jo Nesbo’s retelling of Macbeth is coming in 2018
- Edward St. Aubyn’s retelling of King Lear is coming in 2018
- Gillian Flynn’s retelling of Hamlet is coming in 2021
This project is really cool, and even though there have been countless versions of these famous plays, I am actually really excited to read each of these other retellings as well.