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If We Were Villains (2017)

by M.L. Rio

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0325016,182 (3.86)21
"Much like Donna Tartt'sThe Secret History, M. L. Rio's sparkling debut is a richly layered story of love, friendship, and obsession...will keep you riveted through its final, electrifying moments." --Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney,New York Times bestselling author ofThe Nest "Nerdily (and winningly) in love with Shakespeare...Readable, smart." --New York Times Book Review On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it. A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras. But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students' world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent. If We Were Villains was named one of Bustle's Best Thriller Novels of the Year, andMystery Scene says, "A well-written and gripping ode to the stage...A fascinating, unorthodox take on rivalry, friendship, and truth."… (more)
  1. 40
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (RiversideReader)
    RiversideReader: both books about friends at college who get caught up in a group crime
  2. 00
    The Lessons by Naomi Alderman (dmenon90)
    dmenon90: Academic setting, a group of young and close friends, possible hidden relationship between two members, a great tragedy that is their undoing, though in Alderman's book this tragedy is not a crime.
  3. 00
    The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips (Lirmac)
    Lirmac: Two books that explore creativity, crime and their connection to Shakespeare.
  4. 00
    The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (Lirmac)
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» See also 21 mentions

English (48)  Spanish (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
I am in love with this book ( )
  alexisxnicole | May 12, 2022 |
All I can say is that this book is bloody brilliant ( )
  cancrian | Feb 9, 2022 |
rating is subject to change



I really went back and forth on whether I was going to rate this 3 or 4 stars. There were parts of this book where I was genuinely kind of bored. Anytime I thought about picking this one back up, I didn't really want to. I mostly read this to see if the "dark academia" aesthetic was something I would like, and I can safely say, I don't think I do. I don't like pretentiousness in real academia and I don't like it in fake worlds either apparently. That didn't completely stop me from somewhat enjoying this book, but I think it did turn me off reading any similar books most likely. Also, speaking as a former theatre tech, if I knew a group of people who talked in Shakespeare quotes constantly, I would be super annoyed and probably despise them on principle.

I did think the characters in this book were very well written. They were all distinctive and easily imagined. The relationships between them were so strong which was so crucial to the overall plot. The relationship between Oliver and James was especially interesting to read and uncover more about.
The overall plot was interesting but in my opinion, was very predictable. However, I'm not knocking the book for that too much because I don't think that's the point. If you've read any Shakespeare, you probably know that point is not to surprise the reader. Given this books reliance on Shakespeare, I imagine they were going for a similar vibe. This didn't mean that I didn't find some parts of this boring and overly contrived and lengthy.

I would be interested in reading other books by this author, possibly with a different theme. The writing was very good, as were the characters. This style of writing and plot was just not for me. ( )
  AKBouterse | Oct 14, 2021 |
What an interesting, captivating, and satisfying book. It managed to be literate and thrilling at the same time. A very engrossing read. ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
I'm not sure why this book has elicited such glowing reviews. It is a pleasant enough read, but in my view the characters are one dimensional and there is little suspense. I am puzzled as to why Richard, who apparently was part of the "family" for three years, suddenly becomes a horror of a human being in year four. And the big "twist" that is touted as coming at the end - really? ( )
  KateFinney | Jul 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
In this strong and assured first novel, Rio crafts an intricate story about friendship, love, and betrayal. Recommended for readers who enjoy literary fiction by authors such as Tartt or Emily St. John Mandel.
added by ablachly | editLibrary Journal (Apr 17, 2017)
 
This novel about obsession at the conservatory will thoroughly obsess you.
 
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For the many weird and wonderful thespians whom I have had the good fortune to call my friends. (I promise this is not about you.)
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"Much like Donna Tartt'sThe Secret History, M. L. Rio's sparkling debut is a richly layered story of love, friendship, and obsession...will keep you riveted through its final, electrifying moments." --Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney,New York Times bestselling author ofThe Nest "Nerdily (and winningly) in love with Shakespeare...Readable, smart." --New York Times Book Review On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it. A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras. But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students' world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent. If We Were Villains was named one of Bustle's Best Thriller Novels of the Year, andMystery Scene says, "A well-written and gripping ode to the stage...A fascinating, unorthodox take on rivalry, friendship, and truth."

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Book description
Enter the players.
There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us, though we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.


On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students' world of make-believe. In the morning, fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, one another, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

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