Et tu, M.L. Rio?



Do you like murder, secret societies, and plot twists? “If We Were Villians” brings Shakespeare into the modern era.

SIA SHAH '24 and JIA SHAH '24

Shakespeare? Murder mystery? Dark academia? 

Yes. I’m in. 

If We Were Villains is the perfect mix. Appealing to the true dark academics, this book has Shakespearean aesthetics, secret societies, and the most alluring academic setting. This compelling novel surrounds a tight-knit group of seven young adults studying the works of Shakespeare at an elite arts college. The author – M.L. Rio – skillfully incorporated aspects of playwriting into her novel making it that much more authentic and unique. This book will lure you in and have you anticipating the ending; and, just when you think that you have understood the plot of the novel, Rio artistically throws a twist at you. 

In summary, the novel encompasses aspects of Shakespeare in language, plot, and format. The characters in the books are absolutely obsessed with the work of Shakespeare and attempt to manifest his words into reality through plays and dramas. The peculiar group of contrasting personalities was fine until a typical casting went awry and messed up their dynamic…permanently. Narrated as a frame story by one of the main characters telling his past, the storyline has the reader so captivated because of the literary references, quotes, and thriller. It’s the reader against the book as the race to solve the mystery begins; with each layer that is uncovered, the reader grows even more absorbed in the novel. 

As a murder mystery this book was phenomenal. Though the language was a little bombastic and too successful in the attempt to imitate Shakespeare, the exhilaration to solve the mystery was pretty pertinent. Rio does an incredible job crafting the story in a way that is entertaining. She utilizes elements of a dark narrative tone that sends chills down the readers’ spine and capitalizes on Shakespeare’s most famous dramas and plays. 

For young adults that are interested in the ways literature can mess up one’s mind and excited at the thought of a dynamic friend group and creeping secrets, If We Were Villains combines all elements modern and classic literature in a captivating manner that has readers sitting at the edge of their seats, biting their nails, curious about what’s to come. 

Personally, we thought one of the best parts of the plot was how involved it kept you with the book. There was hardly a disconnect between the content of the novel and the writing, perfectly crafted to keep the reader distracted from all of life’s problems. The novel also had an abundance of aesthetic quotes that will go down in the history of literature; some favorites include– “You can justify anything, if you do it poetically enough,” and “Per aspera ad astra. I’d heard a variety of translations, but the one I liked best was “Through the thorns, to the stars.”

Specifically written for those bookworms that were so fascinated by the plotline of The Secret History by Donna Tartt but couldn’t get through it because of the slow beginning and difficult language, If We Were Villains presents the perfect solution. Readable in one sitting, incredibly well-written, and a novel to remember for ages, If We Were Villains is the book to get you out of your reading slump or even turn reading into a pastime.