Hamlet may be one of the best known tales in Western literature, so any reworkings of this famous play carry high expectations. Other recent YA retellings have focused on Ophelia (like Dating Hamlet by Lisa Fiedler and Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein), but none tackle Shakespeare’s lovelorn and possibly mad heroine quite like Dot Hutchison's debut novel, A Wounded Name.
Set among the squabbling administration of the prestigious boarding school Elsinore Academy, A Wounded Name opens after the sudden death of the school’s headmaster. Ophelia, a sophomore, knows that her father Polonius, the Dean of Curriculum, wants her to take her pills to keep her wild visions at bay, but other temptations beckon. The former headmaster’s son Dane, a senior, has the potential to become more than a friend. Dane’s mother quickly remarries to keep her position as chief hostess, the only role she’s ever known. Fellow senior Horatio balances studies with his devotion to his grieving best friend.
A reader familiar with Hamlet will appreciate the way in which details from the play are translated into a boarding school setting (Fortinbras heads a rival school; Laertes attends a study abroad program in France), but what truly sets this retelling apart are the faerie creatures that only Ophelia can see and hear. Although none of these creatures—including the wailing bean sidhe, the water-bound morgens or ghostly figures on an endlessly unresolved Hunt—appear in the original play, they complement the story so naturally that readers might suspect that they were always there, just never mentioned. And although Ophelia still seeks final sanctuary in the lake, Hutchison undermines our assumptions about what awaits her under the water’s surface . . . and what might have driven her there. This is a highly recommended retelling by an author to watch.