Review: That Way Madness Lies edited by Dahlia Adler

Fifteen acclaimed YA writers put their modern spin on William Shakespeare’s celebrated classics!

West Side Story. 10 Things I Hate About You. Kiss Me, Kate. Contemporary audiences have always craved reimaginings of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. Now, some of today’s best writers for teens take on the Bard in these 15 whip-smart and original retellings!

Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining The Merchant of Venice), Kayla Ancrum (The Taming of the Shrew), Lily Anderson (All’s Well That Ends Well), Patrice Caldwell (Hamlet), Melissa Bashardoust (A Winter’s Tale), Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (Much Ado About Nothing), Brittany Cavallaro (Sonnet 147), Joy McCullough (King Lear), Anna-Marie McLemore (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Samantha Mabry (Macbeth), Tochi Onyebuchi (Coriolanus), Mark Oshiro (Twelfth Night), Lindsay Smith (Julius Caesar), Kiersten White (Romeo and Juliet), and Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (The Tempest).

Title: That Way Madness Lies
Authors Include: Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, Mark Oshiro, K. Ancrum, Anna-Marie McLemore, Dahlia Adler, Lily Anderson, Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, Brittany Cavallaro, Kiersten White, Lindsay Smith, Tochi Onyebucji, Joy McCullough, Patrice Caldwell, Samantha Mabry, Melissa Bashardoust
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Short Stories
Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: LGBTQ+ characters, non-binary characters, Latinx main characters, Black main characters
Trigger Warnings: Mentions of tornados, mentions of a car crash, mentions of blood, recreational drug use, racism, transphobia, kidnapping, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, sexist language, homophobic language, mentioned parental abuse (mental and emotional), death, death of a parent, murder, car accident, fire, witchcraft, cults, gangs, mentions of shootings and stabbings, severe injury (coma), illusions to rape, mentions of drowning, teen pregnancy, miscarriage
Rating:  ★★★★☆

As we have established, I love retellings and I will obsessively read anything that involves Shakespeare in any way. That Way Madness Lies had been on my most anticipated reads list for quite some time and it did not disappoint! I don’t read many short story collections, and I think this was the perfect introduction to short story collections for me. I’ve read many Shakespeare retellings over the years, and the works in this anthology are some of the best. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I thought that all of the authors did a really great job of capturing the feeling of the original stories while keeping them new and relevant. 

While I love Shakespeare’s works, I fully acknowledge that many of his works have sexist and racist language, characters, and themes. Something I think the authors did well was combatting and calling out those themes. For instance, one of Shakespeare’s works that I really am not a fan of, and haven’t revisited since college, is The Merchant of Venice. The blatant anti-Semitic nature of the play especially reflected in the treatment of the character Shylock makes me incredibly uncomfortable. While I am not a fan of the original work, the modernized version I Bleed by Dahlia Adler was in my opinion the most powerful and moving short stories in the collection.

I loved that the authors included many characters that were gay, lesbian, transgender, and non-binary and many of the story’s main characters were people of color. That really helped to modernize the stories and I think made them more interesting and complex. Something that bothers me in many retellings (both Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare) is that authors tend to continue to tell these stories about cis-gendered white people. While I don’t want authors to write characters of color or LGTBQ+ characters just to check off a box on a diversity list, I would absolutely love more diversity in all retellings and it brought me so much joy that many of these authors did just that. The themes in most of the stories are universal no matter someone’s gender, race, or sexuality and I believe that modern adaptations of classic works need to reflect that. 

There really aren’t any weak links in this collection, and while I enjoyed them all it’s not really surprising that my favorite stories in this collection are the stories based on some of my favorite Shakespeare works. My favorites were: Shipwrecked (Inspired by Twelfth Night) by Mark Oshiro, Taming of the Soul Mate (Inspired by The Taming of the Shrew) by K. Ancurm, Some Other Metal (Inspired by Much Ado About Nothing) by Amy Rose Capette and Cory McCarthy, and Dreaming of the Dark (Inspired by Julius Caesar) by Lindsay Smith. I thought that all of those stories were masterfully done and perfectly took inspiration from the original works. Those stories really left me wanting more and I would love to see them turned into full-length stories.

This collection of short stories is full of complex characters and imaginative storytelling. I would highly recommend That Way Madness Lies to any avid Shakespeare reader, as well as anyone who is interested in Shakespeare’s works but is maybe turned off by the classical language. I know that this is a collection that I will be returning to many many times. 

Links for That Way Madness Lies: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound

Dahlia Adler is an Editor of mathematics by day, the overlord of LGBTQReads and a Buzzfeed book blogger by night, and an author of Young Adult and Romance at every spare moment in between. Her novels include the Daylight Falls duologyJust Visiting, the Radleigh University trilogy, and the upcoming Cool for the Summer (Wednesday Books, 2021); she is the editor of the anthologies His Hideous Heart (a Junior Library Guild selection), That Way Madness Lies, and At the Stroke of Midnight (Flatiron Books, 2022); and her short stories can be found in those collections as well as The Radical ElementAll Out, and It’s a Whole Spiel. Dahlia lives in New York with her family and an obscene number of books, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @MissDahlELama.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

6 thoughts on “Review: That Way Madness Lies edited by Dahlia Adler

  1. This is one of the books I’ve been anticipating reading too!! I’m so glad to hear you liked it – especially because we’re both big fans of Shakespeare retellings so I know if you enjoyed it then I will too 💛

    Liked by 1 person

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