If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Publication: April 11th, 2017
Genre: Mystery, Fiction
Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.
On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it. Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.
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Shakespeare. Tragedies. Plays. Heroes. Villains. This is the life of seven young people as they go through school. They have all been through so much together and on their fourth-year, their time together is at an all-time high. Things are beginning to get tense between the friends and no is sure why or what is happening. Then tragedy strikes. One of the seven dies in the lake by the school. All of the group is accounted for but due to how tense things had gotten the police would assume it was one of them. So, to wave suspicion, the group decides to lie about certain things when called upon by the police. Afterward, though life continues to go on but they are forever changed. The story starts out with Oliver in prison for the murder. As the story goes on we go back and forth throughout the acts to understand what happened on that fatal night and how it let to one of them in prison. The story is told in Oliver’s point-of-view and it is a very interesting story let me tell you. At first, I was only going to give it 3.5 stars because it was a bit wordy at times but, the final act pushed the book an extra star. It was so damn good and the plot twist left me dumbfounded. I really never believed it was one of the friends who murdered Richard and when the final stuff is revealed it is very shocking.
Although the story is wordy, I did enjoy the authors writing. I loved the friendship/family dynamic the author created but I was not a fan of the romantic aspects. At times, I was confused with that one and wish it was a little more prominent but alas. I loved LOVED the Shakespeare aspect of the story. It was my favorite thing the author wrote and I loved all the plays used throughout the book and the parts from the plays chosen. Every scene the author chose had a purpose and felt very groundbreaking to the story. I enjoyed it a lot. I also loved how different every voice of the characters was even though the story was in one point-of-view.
These characters really get inside your head. Oliver was the “nice” one of the group. I put that in quotation because he was a good person but that’s what his friends called him. He cared a lot about people especially James & Merideth. He was insecure about his ability to act and felt like the sidekick a lot. I think he is pansexual because of this quote, “My infatuation […] transcended any notion of gender.” James is Oliver’s best friend and roommate. He is a bit mysterious and a fantastic actor. The one he cares for most is Oliver. I am not sure if he is gay or bisexual. Richard is the popular one in the acting sense (he is the main a lot) but he is not liked by many besides the group. Though as the book goes on he is more vicious towards the group and abusive. Meredith is Richard’s girlfriend and the seemingly sexy vixen type. She grows tired of Richard’s ways and is starting to grow close to Oliver. Filippa is the level-headed one of the group and also very mysterious especially about her home life. She cares for the group and is very loyal which you see in the book. Alexander is another one of the great actors but he tends to be a bit of a stoner. He is gay and the comical one of the group. Wren is Richard’s cousin and is the “girl-next-door” type. She loves her cousin but she worries about him spiraling out of control. I loved them all but Richard although he was very complex.
I didn’t care for this as much (mainly Oliver & Meredith) but I wanted more of James & Oliver beside that one kiss during the play at the end and then them being apart for years 😦 BUT I WILL SAY THAT ENDING!!!! James is definitely alive and faked his death so that he and Oliver can have their happily ever after. I just wish it wasn’t an open ending. I feel like we deserved to know for sure that they would be together instead of assuming since he was staying with Meredith.
I sit with my wrists cuffed to the table and I think, But that I am forbid / To tell the secrets of my prison-house, / I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul.
My heart feels heavy in my chest. Secrets carry weight, like lead.
Richard: “Hatred is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Alexander: “That’s imitation, d***head.”
“For us, everything was a performance.” A small, private smile catches me off guard and I glance down, hoping he won’t see it. “Everything poetic.”
“A good Shakespearean actor—a good actor of any stripe, really—doesn’t just say words, he feels them. We all felt the passions of the characters we played as if they were our own. But a character’s emotions don’t cancel out the actor’s—instead, you feel both at once. Imagine having all your own thoughts and feelings tangled up with all the thoughts and feelings of a whole other person. It can be hard, sometimes, to sort out which is which.”
“You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.”
“It’s like we’re not really alive until then, and then everything just lights up and the bad stuff disappears and we don’t want to be anywhere else,”
I knew by then the way the story went. Our little drama was rapidly hurtling towards its climatic crisis. What next, when we reached the precipice? First, the reckoning. Then the fall.
But that how is a tragedy like ours or King Lear breaks your heart—by making you believe that the ending might still be happy, until the very last minute.
“Yes, I was.” It’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is, I’m in love with him still.