Published by Doublet Press on November 15th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Young Adult
Life isn’t always fair, and no one knows that better than fifteen-year-old Puck. When she’s unceremoniously booted from yet another foster home, this city kid lands at DreamRoads, a rehabilitation wilderness camp. Her fellow juvenile delinquents include a famous pop star with a diva attitude, a geeky, “fish out of water” math whiz, and a surly gang-banger with a chip on his shoulder. The program’s steely director aims to break Puck, but she knows that every adult has a breaking point, too. Determined to defy this realm of agonizing nature hikes and soul-sucking psychobabble — even if that means manipulating four lovestruck camp counselors and the director’s dim-witted second-in-command — Puck ultimately gets much more than she bargains for in this “wondrous strange” outdoor odyssey inspired by Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have very high expectations for Puck. When I requested it, I was simply looking for an entertaining read about a “troubled child” going into some kind of detention centre from hell. It wasn’t until I started reading it that I realised it was a A Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling. Not that that changed anything for me, because I remembered jack shit about A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Okay, let me just respond to those of you who are clasping your monocles and turtlenecks in shock. I have never read Shakespeare. I KNOW, I’M SORRY, OKAY? I am a cultural barbarian. ‘Tis true. I grew up in Belgium and the guy wasn’t even mentioned in English class, okay? I think we sat through a play of AMND in high school once, but who the hell cares about Shakespeare at the age of 14, and I have banned all memories of high school from my brain anyway.
So when I realised this was a retelling, I tried to think of everything I remember from the play.
Here’s what I remember from A Midsummer’s Night Dream:
– There was a character named Puck. He liked mischief. But I couldn’t have told you if he was a pixie or a goose or a magical toaster.
– “Eh, something about a queen turning into a donkey?” (Do I get half-points for that?)
– A love triangle? Love square? Love shambles?
Yep, that’s it. Mind-blowing, I know.
So I read it as a regular contemporary and looked up the connections later, and found it was actually very cleverly done.
As a regular contemporary story, it’s perfectly enjoyable as well. I fell in love with Puck’s character from the very first page, as she reminded me a lot of Lex from Croak. Puck was feisty with a lot of spirit, and I always find those characters to be a lot more interesting. You’re never quite sure what they’re going to do, and they always surprise you pleasantly.
It also made me root for her more throughout the story. This detention centre turns out to be some kind of wilderness survival camp, and her band of misfits consist of a popstar princess and a pyromaniac among others. In short: not ideal. Nevertheless, she makes the most of the experience in her own unique and badass way, but we also find a lot of depth in her.
The novel reinterprets some of the most comic scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the scene with the flower potion being the most important one, I think), while also turning it into a story about friendship and forgiveness and all the cheesy clichés about looking inside yourself without absorbing the cheese itself.
For me, Puck was exactly what I expected – an entertaining story – but it also became so much more. A short and sweet ride, and definitely one I’d recommend. (Especially if you’re into badass main characters.)
Thank you NetGalley / Doublet Press for providing me with a copy