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Review: Exposure by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

Macbeth gets a modern day twist as Shakespeare’s play is ripped from medieval Scotland and dropped down into an American high school. Skye Kingston has crushed on Craig MacKenzie ever since he moved to town three years ago, but while she has remained a quiet wallflower, Craig has become one of the most popular guys at school. He and his girlfriend, Beth Morgan, seem certain to reign as the school’s Prom King and Queen. One night, Skye catches a ride from Craig to a party. During a game of flash tag, she hides in the back of the car – and while there she overhears Beth and Craig whispering about some kind of accident. She later learns that one of her classmates, Duncan, died that night. Skye knows that Beth and Craig were somehow involved in his death, but even though she wouldn’t mind Beth going to jail – Beth has been nothing but terrible to her since she started dating Craig – but Skye doesn’t want to endanger Craig, so she says nothing. But nothing stays a secret forever and if anyone ever learns what Skye has kept hidden her life will be in danger.

As a riff on Macbeth, I quite liked Exposure. In a way, the play gets toned down – there are fewer deaths and less violence – but the power politicking and intense psychological turmoil is as constant as ever. The transportation of the story into a high school setting works really well – think how successful 10 Things I Hate About You was and you get the general feel of this novel, although like I said, the violence of Macbeth has been whittled down to prevent a bloodbath in a high school setting.

Curiously, our main character takes on the role of Banquo, Macbeth’s closest friend. It’s an unusual choice, I think, since Banquo dies fairly on in the original play. To accommodate this, Skye suffers a “social” death and a separation from Craig MacKenzie. As the photographer for the school newspaper, she is constantly behind her camera lens, and she uses that as an excuse to keep her distance from events around her. It was a smart way to give her ghost-like qualities without resorting to the supernatural.

I did find it a bit disappointing that we never get into the head of the Lady Macbeth character. Each writer and actress approaches her differently – always she’s crazy and power-mad, but the motivation is always a little different. I was disappointed with this version. Beth is a fairly typical high school bitch, with not much depth beyond cattiness.

I really liked how the author approached the three witches. Since this is a story with no supernatural undertones, I knew it would be a challenge. I worried we would get a stereotypical “witches = goth girls” scenario. But thanks to the decision of setting the story in Alaska, the witches are far more interesting. They’ve transformed into three Yup’ik girls, and instead of prophecies they share cultural folklore. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does, in a very organic way that doesn’t at all force the mythology into the story.

So this isn’t exactly Macbeth in the 21st century; it’s the elements of the old story twisted into something new. I really enjoyed the new version, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new approach to Shakespeare’s classic – or anyone just looking for a young adult novel that’s a quick, fun read.

4 out of 5 stars

To read more about Exposure, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Absurdistan by Gary Schteyngart
2011: Cynical Orange, Vol. 1 by Yun JiUn
2010: The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt
2009: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford


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