“You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.”
This book is so haunting, so atmospheric, so gripping, and so perfect. And If you, too, love The Secret History by Donna Tartt then I recommend this book with every single bone in my body. Also, this is such a love letter to Shakespeare and all his work, so if you appreciate that I think you’ll also fall so head over heels for this story. I’m honestly not sure what I expected going into If We Were Villains, but it is now one of my favorite books of all time.
This story follows seven very pretentious theater students, going to a very prestigious and private college. They moved to Ohio to go to the university from all over the world, but they really made a found family with each other, while all living in what they call the Castle on campus. But one night their life completely changes when they all come together on a decision that alters their fate.
“Nothing mattered much after that morning. Our two souls—if not all six—were forfeit.”
➽ Richard – has a bad temper and is the “mean” one.
➽ Meredith – Richard’s girlfriend, and the “sexy vixen” type.
➽ Filippa – The “cool” one, in my opinion. Mysterious home life. My second favorite.
➽ Alexander – Gay, grew up in foster care, and I believe is Latinx. Yet, is the “stoner” one.
➽ Wren – Richard’s cousin, and “the girl next-door” type.
➽ James – The best actor and our main protagonist’s roommate. I’d say the “popular” one.
➽ Oliver – Our main protagonist, who is nice, and who is sweet, and who just wants to keep the peace between his group of friends. Also, Oliver is totally pansexual and no one can change my mind on this.
“My infatuation […] transcended any notion of gender.”
Oliver is for sure the main character, and this book starts out with him getting out of prison ten years after the events of that frightful night. And he is finally telling the story of what actually happened. This book is also broken up in five acts, but we get to see the events of what really happened that night, a decade ago, and we get to see the ramifications of how that altered everyone’s lives in present day.
“How tremendous the agony of unmade decisions.”
And each act, to me, really highlights a different Shakespearean play, that really sets the tone for what is unfolding in that act. From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to Julius Caesar, to King Lear, to Romeo and Juliet, to so many more; the honoring, appreciation, and celebration are all there and it truly makes for a read like no other. This book is a love letter to theater. And this book is structured so perfectly, written so expertly, that I really think that R.L. Rio crafted something beyond genius.
“It’s easier now to be Romeo, or Macbeth, or Brutus, or Edmund. Someone else.”
Friends, I feel like this is a book that won’t be for everyone, but if it is for you then you will love it with the sum of your being. This was perfection for me, and completely made my October this year. If you’re looking for something haunting, and thrilling, and so very atmospheric, then please give If We Were Villains a try. And that last line? It is going to haunt me forever with its beautiful perfection.
Content and trigger warnings for: death, murder, physical abuse, slut shaming, a transphobic comment, a onetime use of the slur for Romani people, a homophobic comment, drug overdose, PTSD depiction, depression depiction, suicide, self-harm, and mention of an eating disorder (and a poor taste comment about it).