New Boy by Tracy Chevalier
advanced readers copy; 208 pages
Hogarth Shakespeare Series
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier is a highly recommended retelling of Othello for the Hogarth Shakespeare series.
Chevalier sets her tragic story based on Shakespeare's Othello in
an elementary school located in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the
1970s. With only a month of school left, sixth grader Osei
Kokote is yet again the new boy in school, a position he has found
himself in repeatedly as the son of a Ghanaian diplomat. Osei is also
used to being one of the few students of color in school, so he knows he
must find an ally. He is lucky that the teacher told popular student
Dee to help him. He is even luckier that he and Dee hit it off
As adolescent mercurial romances and allegiances ebb and flow quickly,
the connection between the new boy and Dee is noticed by everyone,
including teachers. There is one student, Ian, who can't stand to see
the black boy and the white girl together and he decides to destroy
their friendship. Ian is already a known bully. How far will he go to
destroy Osei and Dee?
This is a very well written and great addition to the Hogarth
Shakespeare series. The action all takes place here in the course of one
day, which is rather quick. Additionally, of course, if you know Othello,
you know basically what is going to happen. This does take some of the
surprise out of the retelling, which has been the case in some of the
other books in the Hogarth series. Chevalier sets her book in five parts
which portray the five acts in the play, and she does incorporate
Shakespeare's plot into her novel.
Actually this is more successful when taken on its own as a novel and not as a retelling of Othello.
Since Chevalier uses adolescents as her characters, their emotions,
allegiances, and angst are front and center. This works well when New Boy
is considered as a novel about racism in suburban schools in the
1970's, but, in my opinion, it doesn't work quite as well for the
Hogarth Shakespeare series. So, I liked it very much as a novel, but a
little less as a Shakespearean tragedy for the Hogarth series.
My review copy was courtesy of Crown/Archetype.