Check out our special guest post by Kristin Halbrook, author of Nobody But Us – and stay tuned for information on an exciting giveaway!
Listening to Romeo and Juliet: A Modern Tragedy
by Kristin Halbrook
A classic tragedy is: Someone on high, falling from their position; main characters in a story dying or being destroyed; people courting ruination through their own folly; the influence of great passion gone terribly wrong.
A modern tragedy doesn’t deviate from these definitions, but enriches them by applying classic tragedy tropes to ordinary people, allowing the average reader to connect on a more personal level than those stories written about those with royal or high status.
What this means, for me, is that every level of society can produce tragedy and is subject to evaluation. Despite both being from wealthy families, Romeo and Juliet’s story had to be told within the bounds of their society, and that society, for them, was oppressive. Juliet was to be sold off into a loveless marriage, while Romeo was limited in his affections by his warmongering family. Analyzing the restrictive social mores of a culture hosting a story and how they create characters who are more impassioned, more desperate, more flawed than they otherwise might be, is the most fascinating aspect of critical thought relating to tragedies, for me.
And so, to what ends will characters reach to shatter the glass boxes of their societies? This was one major question I had in mind as I wrote Will and Zoe, the main characters of Nobody But Us. What kind of society would be terrible enough to compel two characters to the levels of desperation required to make choices full of folly, to become impassioned enough to give all they have for a chance at the happy ending they so crave, to, finally, find themselves destroyed by the society that created them?
In a modern world full of unfairnesses and oppression, seeking the answer to this question wasn’t entirely difficult. Like most people, Will and Zoe were hopeful and good-hearted, essentially, but also victims of a world that wouldn’t nurture them the way all young people need. They were left to depend upon themselves, only, for a long time. When they found each other, discovered the miracle that they could also depend on someone besides themselves, despite their many flaws and despite their lack of education and possession of life tools for the real world, they reached for the chance wholeheartedly, without concern for potential consequences. They both had fallen through the cracks of a system that wants/tries/pretends to protect everyone. Two unwanted kids who, for the first time in their lives, are fully, passionately desired by someone else. To have never had the experience of the headiness of being wanted at such a level is sad; to be a reader who has forgotten what humans are capable of under those circumstances is terrible.
Yes, they were kids in pain on the run from terrible pasts — and desperate for the promise society dangles in front of all young people, but too often can’t deliver on. Unprepared, they had to seek the happiness they craved on their own terms. Because they had reached the stage in their lives when they truly believed no one else would, or could, help them find it.
And that’s the real modern tragedy.
Powell’s Books Exclusive Giveaway:
Kristin Halbrook will be among seven fantastic young adult authors appearing together in an exciting event at Powell’s Books in Beaverton, Oregon on April 17. Hypable will be giving away three signed booklets exclusive to the event, featuring new content from Kristin, as well as authors Mindee Arnett (The Nightmare Affair), Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone), Lisa Desrochers (Personal Demons), Sarah Fine (Sanctum), Kody Keplinger (The DUFF), and Ingrid Paulson (Valkyrie Rising).
Enter right here for a chance to win one of the three signed booklets, and stay tuned for further guest posts from these exciting authors! This giveaway will close at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 17, and is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada.
And no matter where you are in the world, make sure to check out yesterday’s guest post from Mindee Arnett, and read Hypable’s interview with Kristin Halbrook for more information on Kristin and Nobody But Us.