Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Plot Summary:
Shakespeare Shapiro has endured years of his humiliation starting with his name. His parents are crazy, they drink too much, and are in denial about a lot of things. For Shakespeare, not only is younger brother, Gandhi, cooler than he is, Shakespeare has yet to go on a date with a girl, let alone try to kiss her and than have sex with her. While writing his final project (his memoir), Shakespeare is finally coming to terms with his crush on Celeste and actually works up the nerve to ask her out. Just when everything seemed to be great, reality sets in ans Shakespeare starts to realize that people are not exactly what they seem. While balancing his relationships with his two best friends, who keep "hooking up," Shakespeare's world is turned upside down when people start to notice him; moreover, he starts connecting with Charlotte and learns that his life isn't that crazy, nor is is that bad.

Critical Evaluation:
This book is beyond amazing. Not only is it hysterical, it is thought-provoking and intelligent. Not only do readers get inside the mind of an awkward teenager, this point of view will analyze a variety of problems that adults tend to forget or acknowledge. As an adult, this story took me all the way back to high school where my existence wasn't about working full-time, paying rent, and wanting to start a family...it was about figuring about what college I wanted to go to, what I was doing with my friends that weekend, and if I actually fit in with anyone. Not only is this story cathartic for some teens, it is also an inspirational story where the hero finally learns that it is okay to be who he is. Identity is a huge issue amongst teenagers and, our narrator, is a prime example of a lost teen. However, he embraced his qualities, including his name, and decided to focus on his talents and, in the end, it was his abilities that helped him succeed.

Information about the Author:
According to Random House, his publisher,  Jake Weizner said that :" [...] Shakespeare Shapiro had a lot to say, not just about his name, but also about his crazy parents, his maddeningly popular younger brother, his social ineptitude, and the overall catastrophe of his life. Much of what he said was depraved, disturbing, and utterly distasteful; but it was also really funny to me. And I guess it was funny to other people, too, because Spanking Shakespeare is set to hit the bookstores on September 25, 2007" (para. 2).  Jake Wizner, luckily, was not born on Hitler's birthday; in fact, he was actually born on Freud's birthday, which makes total sense when it came to creating Shakespeare Shapiro. Wentz states, in his personal biography, that his "parents wanted to name me Max, but my grandfather, a Holocaust refugee, strenuously objected, saying the name sounded too German.  My original birth certificate read Baby Boy Wizner" (para. 1). Jake Wentz spent the first ten years of his life living in a college dormitory since his mother was the dean of the college. Not only did he spend his early year outwitting adults twice his age, he explored the school, and had a terrible sleepwalking habit (there we a few times drunk college students would take him back to his dormitory). When it came time to go to college, Wentz attended Wesleyan University and took an English class that would change his life forever; when he turned in his first paper he was extremely proud of his B- and his classmate got an A (turns out this classmate happened to be the famous Lemony Snicket). After college, he moved to New Orleans where he became the "Phantom Bard" as he chronicled his life as a public school teacher in the Teach for America newsletter. Wentz currently works as a middle school teacher, in New York City, with his wife and children. 


Genre:
Teen Lit for Guys, Teen Humor

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

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Awards & Recognition:
  • Publisher's Weekly Starred Review 9/27/2007

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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