Hamlet Kennedy is your typical eighth grader who just wants to fit in. Unfortunately, her family makes that incredibly difficult. Her parents are obsessed with Shakespeare and his works and act as though it’s still the Elizabethan era, and her seven-year-old sister Desdemona is a genius being taught college-level courses by tutors. Things just go from bad to worse, however, when Dezzie needs to take some classes at Hamlet’s school, and then Hamlet’s History and English teachers announce they’re going to be learning about Shakespeare that year, giving her parents a reason to take too much of an interest in her schoolwork.
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet is a lighthearted read filled with realistic and quirky characters. While the majority of readers will not be able to identify with Hamlet for having a genius younger sister and parents who are so enthusiastic about Shakespeare that they collect everything Shakespeare (action figures, key chains, etc.) and build models of the Globe Theatre, they will be able to identify with Hamlet’s feelings of being overshadowed by her sister, and want to fit in at school to the point of trying to be invisible and hiding their true self. She is incredibly easy to relate to in this manner, as well as her being embarrassed by her parents, that it was easy to remember my own feelings when I was that age.
With Hamlet’s parents being so interested in Shakespeare, and Desdemona being a child genius, there are plenty of references to the Bard (especially his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and different people the targeted age range might not be familiar with, such as Stephen Hawking, and Madame Curie. As an additional nod to Shakespeare, the book is divided into ‘acts’ and even includes small ‘scenes’ within the story that still allow you to get inside Hamlet’s head. Even the acknowledgements are made to look like a cast listing.
You can read the rest of my review at my blog: http://readerlymusings.com/2013/11/20/book-review-the-total-tragedy-of-a-girl-named-hamlet-by-erin-dionne/