As I Descended by Robin Talley. ★★★1/2
As I Descended is a queer, paranormal, YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Basically I saw that description and thought I had to read this. While I don’t think it’s a novel that I’d revisit in the future, it did make a good spooky read for right around Halloween.
Acheron Academy is a prestigious private boarding school in modern day Virginia, and Delilah Dufrey is the unofficial queen of the senior class. She’s lied, cheated, and manipulated her way to the top, and now she’s the sure winner of the Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Maria and Lily, roommates and secret girlfriends, have their eye on the prize. If Maria wins, it will lock in her acceptance to Stanford, and guarentee that Maria and Lily will be together for the next two years. Maria and Lily will do whatever’s necessary to make that happen. And the only person in the way of their dreams is Delilah.
Confession: I haven’t read or seen Macbeth. So I can’t give any analysis of how As I Descended compares to the original play. However, I did know going in that Macbeth was one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Don’t expect a happy ending.
Yes, that means there’s going to be some deaths. And yes, that means there’s going to be some queer character deaths. However, since literally every major character in the book was queer (I read Delilah as bisexual), there are at least some characters who survive. Seriously, the only significant character who might be straight is Austin, the school’s resident drug dealer. Everyone else was gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Two of the four main POV characters are also Latino or Latina (Maria and Mateo), and since the book goes with ghosts instead of witches, La Llorona comes into play. As I Descended was actually way scarier than I expected! I was on the metaphorical edge of my seat for a large part of the book.
A large part of the appeal of As I Descended was the horrific atmosphere and seeing how the plot played out. There’s not enough complexity to the characters, themes, or plot that I would ever consider rereading it. But if you’re looking for a spooky Shakespeare retelling, this is a good choice.