I thoroughly enjoyed The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You. What could have been a throwaway book trying too hard to riff off Big Bang Theory instead was witty, amusing, and full of so many easter eggs for sci fi/comic/grenre fans as to be a true joy. A nicely played romance underpinning a clever retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing made for a wonderful read.
Story: Trixie and Ben have been throwing insults since an unfortunate incident in 6th grade that turned them into bitter enemies. But having a common set of friends means they are thrown together too often for each other’s comfort. Trixie wants to beat Ben on the academic list. Ben is sure he can beat Trixie easily. But when a string of accusations causes suspensions for high profile students, they just might have to team up to find the real culprit. If they don’t kill each other first.
Ostensibly Much Ado About Nothing was About Hero and Claudio, misunderstandings, and a lot of blame. Beatrice and Benedick were side players but their bickering ensured they were most remembered. Author Anderson keeps the focus on Ben and Trix in this reimagination but makes sure the Hero and Claudio characters are nuanced and interesting as well. Most of the play remains intact, though it should be noted that readers definitely do not have to have read the original Shakespeare in order to enjoy The Only Thing. I was greatly reminded of the movie 10 Things I hate About You – another clever retelling of Shakespeare (Taming of the Shrew).
Also important to note is that readers don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of geek – though having a kindle with a wikipedia option sure is handy! The references are so much fun – from Whedon to Russian literature, Marvel vs. DC, Dr. Who and Star Wars. Even Indie comics such as Saga make an appearance in the story. As an example, one of my favorite lines early in the story:
Beatrice: “Benedict, you have all the tact and intellectual capacity of an unmanned Muppet.” To which he replies, “We can’t all be Skeksis. It must be hard since the Gelflings wiped out the rest of you.” To which she later replies, “A Dark Crystal pull? Old School. Very solid.”
All the characters were well drawn and easy to distinguish. The story flowed smoothly and didn’t get bogged down by the mystery of who was framing the students. Rather, the mystery made the story even more interesting and certainly Anderson gave a very original and different rational than we could have expected. That’s what I liked about this book – the characters aren’t perfect and aren’t anti-hero either – they are a nice mix of intelligent but conflicted teens. We don’t have the stereotypes so long associated with geeks and nerds here. Just people who love genre.
This is a book I’ll definitely recommend to all my friends. I smiled through quite a bit of it and never lost interest at any point. I hope to see more like this from author Anderson in the future. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.