Written by Maša Tome and Hannah French
Two fangirl besties chatting about all things nerdy… Yes, we did something. One thing where we sit down and chat about our favorite things and try to get you to join us in fangirling about them! Focus du jour, a book that we don’t talk about enough – but which should be – If we were bad guys by ML Rio. Read on to see us fangirl about this book and tell you why you absolutely should take it!
A brief recap of If We Were Villains:
Oliver Marks has just served ten years in prison – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day of his release, he is greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.
As one of seven young actors who study Shakespeare at an elite art school, Oliver and his friends play the same roles on and off stage: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenuous, extra. But when the cast changes and the supporting characters usurp the stars, the plays are dangerously overflowing with life and one of them is found dead. The others face their biggest acting challenge yet: convincing themselves and the police that they are blameless.
Describe If we were bad guys in 5 words!
Hannah: Mystery, drama, Shakespeare…
Maša: Murder and friends! It barely covers the complexity of this magnificent masterpiece, but it’s a start!
What do you like most about this book?
H: The characters and the friendships they share. These relationships are so complex and riddled with so much angst, jealousy, competition, pretense and love!
M: I also love the way Rio portrays that these relationships can be so toxic too. On the one hand, these characters share some lovely friendships (and love stories), but they’re so connected to each other that it sometimes overshadows everything they do for a living. It’s also an LGBTQ + book!
H: Another thing I love about this book is the concept of theater and performance! All the characters love Shakespeare and are addicted to the stage. This book really shows what games and words mean to people. It also shows the addictive nature of spotlighting and pretending to be someone else.
M: Yes, it will be a treat for anyone who enjoys Shakespeare, the theater or just dark, atmospheric and twisted stories in general!
Everything you need to know about the main characters!
H&M: We noted their official “titles” but also added our own touch!
Oliver – “The Faithful Companion”; the unconscious
James – “The Heroic Guy”; the noble
Meredith – “La femme fatale”; the heart breaker
Alexandre – “The bad guy”; the troubled teenager
Filippa – “The chameleon”; the only sane one
Richard – “The Tyrant”; the proud idiot
Eurasian Wren – “L’Ingénue”; the extra
Why should you choose If we were bad guys and what themes are covered?
M: You should definitely choose IWWV if you adore the works of Shakespeare or the dark academic genre in general! And even if you are a total beginner in academia, this book will make it easy for you!
H: This book is also about the power of words and at the center of it are all-consuming friendships. It shows how words can consume and how the character and the real person can start to get confused if you’re not careful. IWWV shows that acting can mean adopting a different character and what happens when you start acting off stage as well.
M: IWWV covers a lot of topics and a lot of them are uncomfortable and ugly truths of our world (check the trigger warnings before you start!). It deals with trauma, drug addiction, bullying and death, but it also delves into the themes of morality, good and evil, love.
H: It also touches on themes like what makes someone a bad guy and someone else a “good guy”, a hero if you will. It also asks a very tricky question: “Can you do the wrong thing for the right reasons?” “
M: Yes! One wonders if terrible things can sometimes be justified – and under what circumstances! Basically it’s a masterful story of deception, power and love and we HIGHLY recommend it!
Which makes If we were bad guys special and / or relevant today?
M: If we were bad guys is a character-driven story that departs from the tropes and leaves you guessing! It’s a story of obsession and how far we would go for love, in the meanest way possible! But not just in terms of romantic love – IWWV deals with all kinds of diverse relationships and we’re here for it!
H: This book also points out that pride and greed can influence a person’s actions and that they can ruin friendships. All of these characters want to be the leader and they all want to be the best. This competition and tension gets them all to do things they maybe shouldn’t. IWWV has a very realistic portrayal of what greed can turn someone into. Another plus is that it’s heavy Shakespeare and will make you appreciate his work (I’ve never been the biggest Shakespeare fan but after reading this book I’m in love).
M: If We Were Villains could be categorized into the new dark, grown-up college genre due to its main themes and graphic descriptions, so keep that in mind!
Book recommendations if you liked What if we were bad guys?
H: It’s not a book but the musical Bare (pop opera) is about students from a Catholic boarding school and they put Romeo and Juliet so there are some similarities with IWWV! Another great book to pick up if you liked IWWV is Call the hawk by Maggie Stiefvater.
M: Of course, you can also check out other popular Dark Academy “classics” at this point, such as The secret story by Donna Tartt, Vicious by VE Schwab, or Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo!
H: Now go read this dark masterpiece and let us know your thoughts and thoughts!
M: And don’t forget to prepare a few handkerchiefs before you start!