Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Book Review: "Ben and Beatriz" by Katalina Gamarra

Ben and Beatriz is a modern-day YA retelling of Much Ado About Nothing.

Do you like Shakespeare? While I’ve not read or seen a ton of his plays, Much Ado About Nothing is definitely one of my two favorites. I’ve read and seen it, I love the 1990s film adaptation, and also enjoyed the 2012 updated adaptation, so when Graydon House Books invited me on the tour for this retelling, I was all over it.

Beatriz and Ben are both students at Harvard. Beatriz is fiercely intelligent and blunt, a queer, biracial woman in a world that doesn’t quite get her. Ben is handsome, the son of privilege, known for hooking up with nearly every girl who looks his way. Beatriz loathes Ben and what he represents; she gets under his skin but he hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind since they hooked up freshman year.

The last place Beatriz wants to spend spring break is at Ben’s family’s mansion on Cape Cod, but her cousin and best friend Hero is dating Ben’s best friend Claudio, and she’d do anything for Hero. And it’s not long into the trip before Ben and Beatriz are tearing into each other, fighting over every remark and false assumption they make about one another. But of course, they’re also intensely drawn to each other.

The more time they spend together, the more they discover how vulnerable the other is. Beatriz has nightmares from childhood trauma and is trying to find her place in a country that recently elected Trump president, and Ben is tired of the expectations of his conservative family and his abusive older brother, John. Can the two break through the walls they’ve built around them and find happiness?⁣

I enjoyed this very much. It’s fascinating to experience the themes of the original play with modern twists. This is definitely darker and angstier than the play, but these characters are so beautifully complex. I love the creativity of retellings!

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