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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Shakespeare Undead

It is 1592, and zombies have overtaken London. Who better to stop the undead than Shakespeare?

And oh yes, Shakespeare is himself a vampire because, really, how could anyone write so many great works in one lifetime?

HANDELAND, Lori. Shakespeare Undead. 320p. St. Martin’s/Griffin. 2010. Tr $13.99. ISBN 978-0-312-64152-8. LC 2010014437.

Shakespeare Undead

Adult/High School–Sure, this is a trashy romance in which William Shakespeare is a vampire and his leading lady is a zombie hunter. It’s also a densely layered piece of postmodern pop art through which Handeland argues for reclaiming Shakespeare as a popular artist, placing the Bard on an artistic continuum with The Wizard of Oz, The Sixth Sense, and Twilight. At the same time she parodies such different sources as Shakespeare in Love, Will in the World, and anti-Stratfordian tracts, showing that thinking that Shakespeare’s poems and plays offer direct access to the poet’s personal life is as ridiculous as believing that Shakespeare was a zombie-hunting vampire. Her own narrative, which manages to offer teens an interesting mystery, a romance that would put Edward and Bella to shame, and a healthy helping of zombie gore, preempts any criticism of its own superfluity by offering up Shakespeare’s plays (specifically Two Gentlemen of Verona) as prototypical examples of potboiler plots teeming with subtextual power. Perhaps most surprisingly, though the attempts at the language are horrendous, Handeland does a creditable enough job of portraying Elizabethan England that the novel would work as curriculum support in a history course as well as it would in an English class. This is a novel likely to be unjustly overlooked, that in fact offers something for just about everyone.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Solano County, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Mark Flowers says:

    I’m happy to say that in my library at least, this book has been circulating about once a month. I still think it could be a really popular book, but at least it’s not collecting mold.