Book Review: “Exposure” by Mal Peet

As any good librarian associated with me knows, the way to my heart is via Shakespeare.  So, I was excited when this teen novel was brought to my attention.  Othello in the world of football, celebrity, and street kids in an unspecified city in South America.  I’m there!

What appears particularly interesting is that this book seems to be part of a series, centred around the sports journalist Paul Faustino.  Faustino’s personal journey of realisation which involves an evolving relationship with orphaned street child Bush (and his sister Bianca), is interwoven with his association star football player Otello and his own rise … and fall.

I like the title.  “Exposure” works well as a modern version of ‘reputation’ which Shakespeare’s play is so concerned with.  In a world of tabloids, social media and political innuendo, the extent to which one is exposed (positively or otherwise…there’s no such thing as bad publicity, remember?!) does indeed dictate one’s reputation.

Ultimately though, I struggled with this novel.  I don’t deny that Peet has done a good job of weaving together Shakespeare with his own storyline and characters.  However, I found it difficult to really settle into the book.  I was waiting for the ‘true’ Othello plotline to come through, to the detriment of the story Peet was wanting to tell.  I am happy to admit the fault may well lie with me, rather than Peet’s storytelling ability.  In fact, Peet’s interpretation of Othello is sound.  Although Diego (great name for the Iago-character!) remains almost as motivationless as his original.  And his companion Emilia…hmmm.

I think I would recommend this novel to someone who didn’t know the play that well.  A looser connection to the original would be preferable than someone who is impatiently waiting for certain events to unfold.  Peet doesn’t let us forget that he is basing his novel on a play though, with chapter titles given as act and scene numbers, and key conversations printed as script.  For all his relatively skillful interweaving, it seems Peet can’t quite get away from Shakespeare either.


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