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If We Were Villains

by M.L. Rio

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6954424,458 (3.81)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

Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
This was a different and interesting story. As the tragedy of the story unfolds the question became not who was murdered or why, but more of how Oliver came to take the blame (or was he telling the truth all along). It was a dark story with a lot of quotes from Shakespeare (the students have their own style of talking that involved quoting the bard a lot). I did like Oliver and the other students. It was a story with a lot of layers and morally gray areas. I would recommend it to readers that appreciate a deep, layered story who don't wouldn't be bothered by the frequent Shakespearean quotes that are incorporated into their conversations. ( )
  Cora-R | Apr 22, 2021 |
3.5* the Shakespearean quotations started to become a bit much after a while but I enjoyed the mystery aspect. ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
I really enjoyed this book. It was gripping and I could not put it down. It was also very atmospheric. However, I do think the characters talking to each other largely in shakespeare quotes got a bit gimmicky and annoying, and I wish some of the other characters motivations had been a bit more fleshed out. Overall, I would recommend this and if you are a fan of dark academia it is a must read. ( )
  queenofthebobs | Mar 12, 2021 |
Rec by Phil. Great debut novel. A group of final year drama students in an elite American university. They are exclusive and Shakespeare dominates their study and behaviours. With fatal consequences. ( )
  simbaandjessie | Feb 10, 2021 |
If We Were Villains is set at an eccentric conservatory/college that has a very exclusive program to train Shakespearean actors. The tight-knit coterie of seven students who survive the program's culling process to become fourth-years are all obsessed with Bard, to the point of using Shakespearean lines in every conversation. In this group Oliver, the narrator, is the "nice guy," not the one with the most talent, but the one everyone likes. How is it that he ended up serving ten years in prison for murder?

I was concerned that this book might owe too much to The Secret History, but despite sharing a few plot elements the two novels are different. If We Were Villains held my attention with good writing and well-developed, vivid characters, even though I figured out the final plot twist before the end. Still, I highly recommend this novel. ( )
  akblanchard | Jan 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (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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