The Next Shakespeare by Wanda Ernstberger (Short Story Review) 

 December 23, 2022

By  CJ

Summary (goodreads):

Who thought a poem would trigger World War Three?

Tristan Gunner—skateboard fanatic, junk food junkie, award-winning poet. But you’d think he just got detention instead of the school’s grand prize for poetry. And even though Chris won five Math and Science awards, the next Einstein is crying because he’s not the next Shakespeare. Astra wants them both to cut the drama, and caught between a mortified winner and a crybaby loser, she hopes Chris can get over his attitude before World War Three erupts in her kitchen.

What I expected: I liked the title of the short story: The Next Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare’s works- I mean, I’ve only read Romeo and Juliet for school, but so much of what we read and watch on TV and in movies today is inspired from him that I thought that this would be a cool story to read.

My Thoughts

It’s a whole lot harder to review short stories than novels, because in short stories, everything is compacted into one tight storyline and every single word counts; you have a limited amount of space to make an impact.

The Next Shakespeare is about an overachiever resenting a normal guy for winning an award, told from the point of view of a moderator, Astra. I thought the characters were very well put together, although I didn’t know as much about the MC Astra as I did about the two guys: Chris, the overachiever, and Tristan, the guy who does win the poetry contest.

This story gives a rare insight into the young elite of Toronto. I mean, I’ve only ever won like, one award so far in my life (for Business) but here we don’t have anything nearly as competitive. I was rolling my eyes at Chris the whole time. I mean, calm down, you’ve already got your bright future.

Tristan, on the other hand- I could practically see him, he was so real. I also think that the two poems from both characters were like a window into their souls. No competition about who deserved to win there.

Overall, I think that although some teenagers might scoff at how seriously some people take school, this was a much-needed look at how many expectations smart people are expected to fulfill, often without their own consent. The little part at the end where a certain character wins their freedom was quite well done as well, and I felt proud of that character for standing up for their rights.

The short story experience: man, was it fast. The only time I ever read short stories is for English class assignments, and most of those stories aren’t YA fiction. This story is, however, for teenagers, and although it was was different experience reading a short story for fun, it definitely wasn’t an unpleasant one.

Note: I received this short story for review from the author. Thank you, Ms Ernstenberger!


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