Be prepared for an onslaught of reviews! Due to sickness and to traveling, I’m a bit behind. I’ll be posting three reviews this week: one today, one tomorrow, and one on Friday.
Shakespeare’s Secret is written by Elise Broach. It was published in 2005 by Henry Holt. It is Broach’s first novel for young people. Broach’s website can be found here.
“When Hero starts sixth grade at a new school, she’s less concerned about the literary origins of her Shakespearean name than about the teasing she’s sure to suffer because of it. So she has the same name as a girl in a play by a dusty old author. Hero is simply not interested in the connections.
But that’s just the thing; suddenly connections are cropping up all over. There’s a million-dollar diamond hidden in her new house (or so she’s told), a curious woman next door who seems to know an awful lot about it, and then, well, then there’s Shakespeare. Not to mention Danny Cordova, only the most popular kid in school, who seems intent on uncovering the mystery with Hero. Is it all in keeping with her namesake’s origin—just much ado about nothing? Hero, being Hero, is determined to figure it out.
What I Liked:
This is basically a book centered around a giant conspiracy theory about Shakespeare, so that’s pretty interesting to read about.
This is your average MG book: okay plot, okay characters, everything wrapped up all neatly with a happy ending, tiny mysteries that aren’t very complex but enough to get the characters where the author wants them to go, etc. The cover art is actually what intrigued me the most, and it’s actually cooler than the book itself, in my opinion. The cover art rocks. It’s all mysterious and Gothic and stuff. It’s done by Brett Helquist, actually, so it reminded me of Blue Balliat’s Chasing Vermeer (which is a great book, by the way) and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which he also illustrated.
What I Didn’t Like:
Unfortunately, the book itself is a little too bland for my tastes. Great for middle-grade readers, but not for me. Hero’s parents were…interesting, as in, “I can’t believe they just let her get away with eating chocolate ice cream for breakfast” interesting.
It’s also a very predictable book; the “surprise” about Danny can be seen coming from a mile away and the fight between Mrs. Roth and Hero was very hard to believe and didn’t really carry any emotional weight at all, in my opinion.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Realistic, Mystery, Middle Grade
Hero lowered the thorny stems to look at her. “What do you mean?”
“Your house,” Mrs. Roth repeated. “Your parents know the story, don’t they? I thought the Realtor would have told them. Most people around here believe that the house has a diamond hidden in it. A seventeen-carat one, somewhere on the property.”
“A diamond? You’re kidding.”
“No, not at all. It was quite a scandal last year. The police, the insurance company—everyone got involved.”
Hero shook her head. “I don’t get it. Why would anyone hide something so valuable?”
“Why did you name me Hero?” she asked. “I mean, I know it’s from the play. But why did you choose Hero for me and Beatrice for Beatrice?”
Her mother’s hand paused. “Well, you have to remembered, you were just tiny, wrinkled newborns when we name you. It’s not as if Beatrice seemed like a Beatrice, or you like a Hero. Nobody can look at a baby and know what kind of person she will grow into.”
‘So there wasn’t a reason?”
Her mother kept stroking her hair. “I wouldn’t’ say that. Your father and I loved both those names, If you would ever read the play, you’d understand. The two girls are cousins. Beatrice is bold, confident, full of fun.”
“I know,” Hero said. “Mrs. Roth said Beatrice is the stronger character.”
“In the play, Beatrice is ‘born in a merry hour.’ That suits Beatrice, don’t you think?”
Hero nodded glumly.
Her mother smoothed her hair back from her face. “And Hero is constant, brave, and true.”
Look at the cover for Shakespeare’s Secret. Admire its mysterious feel and how it screams “Read this book because I am awesome!” Then set the book aside. Or read it, if you don’t mind a pretty average book, with average characters, a simple plot, and a very “this is for younger readers” feel to it.
You can buy this book here: Shakespeare’s Secret
Coming Up Next: The Last Treasure by Janet S. Anderson