Coming back to a book one loved at a younger age is always an interesting experience. I know I like to do that from time to time, whether it be The Adventures of Dixie North or the Goosebumps series or anything by Andrew Clements. Jake Wizner's Spanking Shakespeare also falls into this category, but I didn't discover at as early an age as I did the other books mentioned -- I came to this book in April of 2011, when I was a typical high school freshman with typical high school freshman interests (i.e., not high-brow literature). I was on a trip to the coast with my family at the time, and we made a trip to Books-A-Million -- one of my favorite things to do on vacation because I am a total nerd. I was browsing the young adult fiction section, and noticed this book. With a title like Spanking Shakespeare, I, of course, had to pick it up and see what it was about. I ended up buying it and spent all of that night reading, and by the next morning I was finished. Shakespeare is a first-person account of a sarcastic high school senior just trying to get laid and make new friends. There are scenes in this involving a sex doctor, masturbation, getting high, et cetera. Wizner is blunt and crass and I was in heaven.
Fast forward four years; I am a very different person now. I'm going into my second year of college and I no longer hang out with any of my friends from those days. I've cut my hair and I no longer wear band tees or skinny jeans. The only similarity that former person and I have is blogging, which I've been doing since I was 13 or so. Other than that.... well, we're really two different people, and that's the way it should be. I've grown up, therefore my literary interests have grown up as well. I went into Spanking Shakespeare knowing it probably wouldn't live up to the memories I had of it from that beach trip years ago. At the time, I thought it was the end-all-be-all of books, but this time I... well, feel rather differently.
As I said, this book is about a high school senior named Shakespeare Shapiro. It mostly focuses on his trying to get a girlfriend during his senior year and working on a memoir of his life for a big contest his school is putting on. The chapters rotate between the present and excerpts from Shakespeare's memoir project, which is made up of pretty funny stuff from his childhood -- included are the time his father got the family dog drunk, the time he got caught with a porno in seventh grade math class, and a horrible experience at summer camp. Wizner is nothing if not hilarious, and he isn't afraid to make his characters "go there." This is possibly the rudest and crudest book I've ever read, and at times I found myself howling with laughter.
Unfortunately, there isn't much else to this book besides the Shakespear's humorous past. In the present he's whiny and self-deprecating to the point it becomes a chore to read about how bad he's got it when, in actuality, his life isn't bad at all. Sure, he gets made fun of for his name occasionally, but.... that's it. He makes it out to the reader that he's such a loser and has no friends and will forever have no life, but he has friends. Granted, they're very 2-D, but he has friends. Girls pay attention to him and constantly compliment him on his writing when the English teacher reads writing assignments aloud. Wizner is trying to show and not tell in these instances, and it doesn't work. A similar fate struck The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a book I can't even look at without getting angry. (Maybe if I'm ever tapped for review ideas, I'll rip that POS a new one. Hmmmm.)
Overall, I felt pretty let down by this reread. In my mind at 15, this book was a work of art and Shakespeare Shapiro was a hero -- a guy I could relate to and wanted to be like. Now I just think he's whiny and lazy, and reading about him was honestly a slog. Beneath the heavy doses of humor is a weak book with cardboard cutout characters and a go-nowhere story-line that doesn't really resolve in any sort of interesting or rewarding way. It just peters out. I would recommend this for young teens, but not anyone else.