Top positive review
I would instantly read a sequel
Reviewed in the United States on August 5, 2018
This is one of the best books I've read in 2018. I see there are some wildly divergent reviews, so I will go into more detail than I usually do about the things I liked. First of all: the Shakespeare. I found the use of direct quotes, adapted quotes, performance, and homage richly compelling. I have spent time in the type of environment that serves as the setting for this story, and I know how emotionally rewarding it can be to fully immerse one's self in an obsession, particularly in the company of other obsessives. In the book, this is described as an addiction, and while I am not (to my knowledge) addicted to anything except reading, I can accept the description.
I do not ordinarily choose books about college-age protagonists. The setting of this book, however, is no ordinary college, and the experience of these protagonists (while it certainly includes stereotypical collegiate overindulgences) has nothing to do with the stereotypical American college experience, i.e. it has nothing to do with sports, inter-school rivalries, or other externalities. The experience here is about the delirious satisfaction of constantly creating, constantly discovering, constantly learning. Of course, not everything we learn is pleasant. Sometimes, what we learn is acutely painful. That's life.
The mystery in this book is not a conventional murder mystery. The structure of the book allows for a slow unveiling of the characters and their milieu, which makes the eventual "reveal" inevitable. It is not contrived. It is, in fact, completely true to what we learn about the characters. We do not have a "villain" in the conventional sense, who deliberately committed a crime in order to gain something. What we do have is a group of people bound by mutual love of their subject and, in most cases, by degrees of love for each other.
"If We Were Villains" has been compared to "The Secret History," which is a book I have not read. I didn't read it because of points revealed in reviews that made me think I wouldn't like it. If it deals as well with truth and consequences as this book, however, maybe I should have given it a try.