One of my greatest disappointments as an adult reader has always been the complete lack of “choose your own adventure” novels for a mature audience. I am relatively sure that almost everyone remembers the Goosebumps “choose your own adventure” style books that R. L. Stine created (way back in the now highly nostalgic 1990’s). There were many other “choose your own adventure” book series that catered to the late elementary/middle school reading level as well, but for some reason these books as not generally made the jump to the adult market.
Therefore, it should be no great surprise that I felt like a little nerdy kid in a bookstore when I got my virtual hands on Ryan North’s book. For those of you who do not know about Ryan North, he is the author of the ingenious Dinosaur Comics. Ryan North often brings nerd culture into his humor, which ranges from references to superheroes to gaming culture and everything in between. I am pleased to report that To Be or Not To Be is everything that I hoped for and more.
One of the most unique concepts behind the book is that you actually get to choose which character to play as from the beginning (Hamlet, Ophelia, or Hamlet’s dad). Ryan North cleverly included little Yorick skulls by all of the choices that go along with Shakespeare’s original play. As a result, it is easy for any reader (even one who has never read Hamlet before) to experience the play through as hilariously worded by Ryan North. To Be or Not To Be is the sort of book that literally begets laugh out loud moments. Whether you have Hamlet choose to indulge in some “nappy times” after his encounter with his father’s specter or end up wandering the sea floor in search of pirate treasure, Ryan North is at his best with witty, random, and fresh humor.
Ultimately, To Be or Not To Be appeals to nerds of many different stripes and types. If you are (like me) a Shakespeare nerd, then you need to read this book! If you are (like me) nostalgic for the “choose your own adventure” books of youth, then you need to read this book. Finally, if you are a fan of Ryan North (like me) and his wonderfully waggish humor that is often laden with nerdy references, then you need to read this book!