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Book Review: Shakespeare Burning (Charisse Moritz)

This is not the first book I’ve read written by Charisse Moritz, and I sure as heck hope it won’t be the last. I was so excited to finally get time to read ‘Shakespeare Burning’ after utterly devouring ‘Shatter’. Before I dive into the review itself, I just want to make a polite request… Charisse Moritz, please get in my head and narrate my internal monologues. I can’t even count the amount of times Shake and Cleo’s thought processes reduced me a giggling mess. I need some of that sass in my life!

Thanks in advanced for accepting my humble request. Now, onto the review itself… Much like ‘Shatter’, ‘Shakespeare Burning’ was a contemporary YA romance that did not hold back any punches. It covers some heavy, hard-hitting themes with grace and heart-wrenching empathy: loss of loved ones, abuse, drugs, trauma, broken relationships, letdowns, and so, so much more. Both main characters were unique, endearing, and utterly imperfect. There were moments when I wanted to yell at them as much as I wanted to hug them. Charisse Moritz made sure I was along for their emotional rollercoasters every damn step of the way.

First up, in order of appearance, we have the broody, emotionally shut-off Shake. Right away, we know he is dealing with some deep stuff, and that he has been coping by retreating into himself. It was so easy to sink into his mindset, and wow- I just wanted everyone to give him a moment to just breathe. Moritz manages to catch that quintessentially adolescent desire to dissolve into a puddle of nothingness with utter perfection. Before the events that saw Shake’s seemingly picture-perfect childhood spiralling into darkness, he had a good bunch of friends and a lot of personal strengths. Shake’s arc in the novel is about a young man learning to push past soul-crushing loss to find a new place in a world that, for him, is fundamentally changed. Luckily, and in a similar vein to ‘Shatter’ (or, I should say ‘Shatter’ is in a similar vein to ‘Shakespeare Burning’, as it came out after), our female protagonist utterly refuses the self-flagellating Shake to retreat. Cleo herself has one hell of a life to deal with. With circumstances quite different to Shake’s, Cleo has been in survival mode for so long it has become her only mode. She has had to struggle every day of her life to get to the next, and it shows in her coping mechanisms and how she interacts with the world. She has a core of strength and resilience that gets her through the horrific daily trials that make up her reality. Despite her persistent spirit and the most loyal and loving best friend anyone could ask for, she still needs something else to helpher find herself and find safety, which is where this story really takes off. But while we’re on the topic of the best friend- everyone needs to get themselves an Allie Kindle.

I mean, for real. Where the hell can I sign up for one?

While I am TOTALLY HERE for Shake and Cleo, I cannot let this review go without drooling over Ally. There isn’t a single moment when I don’t want to kidnap her to be my BFF. Every description of her had me cheering, and her antics were the cherry onto of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that is ‘Shakespeare Burning’. Here’s a little nugget I highlighted as I read (and yep, I’ve found the highlight feature on my Kindle app!): “She’s so colorful, she should be hung from the ceiling and stuffed with candy.” I’m pretty sure Ally actually would be filled with candy. She probably farts rainbows and burps candy floss, too. She is the sweetest, craziest, most loveable character. She has her BFF’s back and is caring in a way that very few people are. She is determined to be herself in a world that tends to crush eccentricity, and I salute her. And there we go, I got carried away. As anyone who has ready YA will suspect, Shake and Cleo have their ‘Meet Cute’ moment in the book, even though they know of each other beforehand. Some circumstances mean that they wind up in each other’s company, and romance can’t help but develop. What results is the most addictive flourishing of a beautiful, healthy relationship between two people who desperately need someone relentless, empathetic, and fierce loving in their lives. There are some very usual complications that come up, and some others that are delightfully new. Shake has some friends who struggled to help him but come through in the end, and there is a butt-load of fist-fighting in this one. I wasn’t quite expecting that level of fisticuffs after reading ‘Shatter’, but Shake runs with a different crowd, and Tia and Taz have very different friendships that don’t lend themselves to that sort of conflict-resolution.

Which naturally leads me to another thing that had me all excited: the little links to Tia and the West family. I mean… part of me is relieved I read the books in reverse publication order, because I was squealing like a teakettle whenever I saw someone from the West Clan. I LOVE how this set up the key players for ‘Shatter’, and it just adds a depth to the world-building that makes me happy on a very fundamental level.

Overall, ‘Shakespeare Burning’ is the best investment I’ve made with my time recently. It contains the kind of character development, narration, and storyline that dumped me into a post-novel-listlessness when I finished it. While I wish it wasn’t over, I am so pleased with the ending that I can’t complain. I would recommend this book for anyone, but if I have to be more specific, it is great for YA readers, romance readers, and those who enjoy the high-school settings. Now that it’s over, I’ll just sit here and wait (not at all) patiently for Moritz’s next release. If you’re reading this, I highly suggest you jump on the bandwagon. You won’t regret it.

Favourite quotes (Kindle highlighting FTW):

  • Not the big toe. It’s not big toe level bad.

  • We walk together. He walks. I jog.

  • I slide my hands back into his curls and lay down on his chest so I can hear his heartbeat. Funny how they all sound the same. Even the broken ones.

  • “Brought you home. Duh.” I singsong the last part, cuz I’m mature like that.

  • “Everybody at school blames Allie. But it’s bullshit, right? That’s the secret. She wouldn’t hurt a fly, but she sits in detention every day, covering for something or somebody else.”

  • “The hurt’s in here. It’s big and awful, and it’s ours. We don’t need to feel it at max capacity every second to prove it. And I hate to tell you this, but your pain doesn’t change a frigging thing for them…. So all you’re doing is hurting yourself.”

  • “So if you wanna shout, fight, f*ck, skate, dance, laugh, whatever, it’s all right. Doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting enough.”

  • What do I need? To… (Don’t want to finish these lines, because they are beautiful to read, but when you get to them- cherish them for the gems they are)

Important Stats

Genre: Romance

Length: 325 pages

Series or Standalone? Standalone within a world that the author uses in other novels

You will love this if you enjoy: Sassy high school romances

Content warnings: Domestic abuse, sexual assault, death of family members, drugs, sex, violence.

Here are the links you need if you want to find out more:

Shakespeare Burning on Goodreads

Charisse Moritz's website

Amazon Link

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