This review is spoiler-free!
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
Genres: Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary
Release Date: April 11th 2017 by Flatiron Books
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Find it here: Goodreads || Book Depository
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.
I don’t think I have the words for this. It was just that good.
I know this book is often compared to The Secret History by Donna Tartt, but I haven’t read that yet, so there won’t be any comparing of the two in my review. Just a lot of gushing over how much I enjoyed it, because holy shit did I enjoy it.
I devoured this story. I read it in a day! The very first chapter was a little hard to get through (and this was the part I hesitated on when I first opened the book up), but the moment we got into the real story and the seven kids — Oliver, James, Philippa, Meredith, Richard, Wren, and Alexander — started to interact, I was hooked. I couldn’t put the damn thing down, I was so entrapped by the way the story was told. And I was surprised, because I was not expecting to be as caught up in it as I ended up being.
Actually, it was less the story we were being given and more the characters themselves that got me so firmly stuck in the book. I loved their interactions, I loved them as characters on their own — but the best of it all was when they were acting together. The Macbeth play they did? Favorite part of the entire book. The other plays were a whole lot of fun to read, too (especially the last one we read, hoo boy), but something about the Macbeth play got me good. The way the plays were described by Oliver as he was acting in them and how he took us through the motions from his eyes, it really made the whole book for me. Yeah, it’s a murder mystery and all, but I almost didn’t care about that part in favor of the characters and everything regarding them, and them only.
In fact, I almost wish this had nothing to do with murder! I’ll take it, though. Because it still was a really good story.
I have to say, though, something that really, really made this all such a good book for me? That last paragraph. I won’t say anything about it, because wow that’s a spoiler, but holy shit.
I wish it hadn’t ended.
And that’s what I have to say about the book! I guess I should read The Secret History now (because I do already own it), but, from what I understand, if you liked that book, you should give If We Were Villains a try.
I say, if you like books about groups of kids that are so close they’re like siblings, or maybe you just like theatre kids in a cutthroat environment and also Shakespeare, then maybe give it a try. I love it, and I was never a theatre kid. You never know.
Thanks for reading!