Tempestuous by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

TemptestuousGoodreads: Tempestuous: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Series: Twisted Lit #1
Source: Received from authors in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads Summary: Recently banished, unfairly, by the school’s popular crowd, former “it girl,” Miranda Prospero, finds herself in a brave new world: holding dominion amongst a rag-tag crew of geeks and misfits where she works at the Hot-Dog Kabob in the food court of her local mall. When the worst winter storm of the season causes mall workers and last-minute shoppers to be snowed-in for the night, Miranda seizes the opportunity to get revenge against the catty clique behind her social exile. With help from her delightfully dweeby coworker, Ariel, and a sullen loner named Caleb who works at the mall’s nearby gaming and magic shop, Miranda uses charm and trickery to set things to right during this spirited take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

ReviewTempestuous is a creative and literate interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that refuses to follow Shakespeare’s plotline exactly but instead takes inspiration from its characters and its themes.  There are, of course, great nods to Shakespeare scattered throughout the book, including chapter titles and various quotes.  At one point Miranda says of her friend Ariel that she wished “I’d been gifted with the power to make her invisible.” Funny!

Tempestuous hooks the reader from the prologue, opening with a line that promises action and romance: “The handcuffs chafed my wrist, but that was nothing compared with the irritation I felt regarding the cretin to whom I was currently shackled.”  The rest of the novel delivers.

Though Askew and Helmes have moved the plot from a magical island to a modern mall, the plot still borders on the insane.  Miranda, her friends, and her enemies get snowed in overnight, and hilarious antics ensue.  Miranda coordinates a number of crazy plots against her enemies that would border on the absurd in the real world but are quite in keeping with the spirit of the book.  Similarly, some of the background information explaining the plot does not always make sense (The other students hate Miranda because they cheated in school? Everyone immediately assumes a thief is the same as a murderer?), but the overreactions are part of the fun and also in the spirit of Shakespeare.

Miranda Prospero is a combination of Miranda and her father Prospero from Shakespeare’s play, imbued with both Prospero’s need to control and penchant for lofty speech and Miranda’s kinder personality.  She can be a little difficult for readers to relate to in her arrogance—she has a shallow popular girl attitude going on—but the key is remembering she is supposed to be arrogant because she is based on Prospero.  (This also helps explain why everyone around her seems to think she has nearly magical solutions for every problem—something that remains unexplained and could easily confuse a reader unfamiliar with The Tempest.)  Miranda stops short of being completely unlikeable, however; the bits of Shakespeare’s Miranda in her redeem her, as does her character arc from aloof private school girl to caring food court coworker.

The love interest, though initially annoying to Miranda, will probably be more immediately endearing to readers.  He is smart, witty, creative, and kind.  There is no instalove; their romance truly grows.  (But isn’t Romeo and Juliet instalove, anyway?   So it would be acceptable here!)  Best of all, their romance is based on the idea that together, they can help each other to become the best versions of themselves, a message  that is important but often overlooked in YA.  Askew and Helmes certainly got this right.

I am not a huge fan of The Tempest, and that may have translated into some of my issues with Tempestuous.  However, despite my personal exasperation with pompous characters and overstated plotlines, I recognize and appreciate that the authors did a fantastic job translating the themes and feel of The Tempest into a modern YA book.  It is not simply an exciting, fast-paced read, but also well-written, and it clearly demonstrates the authors’ love of Shakespeare.  I am looking forward to reading more in the serious, particularly retellings of Shakespeare plays I love!

Content Note:  Mild cursing and slightly vulgar moments.  All in the spirit of Shakespeare, of course!

Publication Date: December 18, 2012

Purple Ribbon

Read our interview with Kim and Amy about this series!

Amy Kim and Macbeth


3 thoughts on “Tempestuous by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

  1. Patricia @ Night Readings says:

    This is the second review I have stumbled across of Tempestuous and I have to say you’ve got me hooked on this one – it’s going on my (terrifyingly) growing to-read list.

    Unfortunately I am not familiar with the original story, (I almost feel like I have broken some literal culture law by admitting that), should I read The Tempest first?


    • Briana says:

      I think it might depend on how much you like Shakespeare. The Tempest isn’t my favorite of his works, in part because some of the characters are intentionally unlikeable. So I wouldn’t want to turn someone off Shakespeare by extolling The Tempest too much, though obviously there are other people who like it!

      On the other hand, I think recognizing the references to Shakespeare is part of the fun in a book like this. I haven’t read The Tempest in about 7 years, so my memory was a little dim, but it was still amusing to see quotes incorporated into the text, for example.


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