Sentenced to Shakespeare

Iris Dorbian


by Iris DorbianLeah is a smart and sensitive 15-year-old girl who loves Taylor Swift, binge-watching reality TV and just wants to get through the rest of junior high without any trouble....

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by Iris Dorbian

Leah is a smart and sensitive 15-year-old girl who loves Taylor Swift, binge-watching reality TV and just wants to get through the rest of junior high without any trouble. At least that was the plan, until she is pushed too far by a bully at school and ends up arrested for assault and battery.

Deemed a juvenile offender, Leah is sentenced to an unusual form of rehabilitation: a Shakespeare workshop where she has to memorize scenes with other teen offenders and perform on a big stage for an audience. There are lots of rules to follow; she can’t check her phone during class and she definitely can’t date anyone else in the program. Leah hates that she was punished for defending herself—her bully deserved it, after all. But most of all, she hates that her bully made her snap. Still, she throws herself into the program anyway, not wanting to disappoint her parents even more than she already has.

Ostracized by her classmates and abandoned by her only friend, Leah finds comfort and solidarity with the other juvenile offenders in the program, whom she relates to more than she expected. Leah even encounters something she's never experienced before—love. But when a new friend throws her under the bus, Leah is forced to confront her choices and stop blaming her bullies, or else risk losing the opportunity she’s been given to make a new life for herself.

Page Count: 213
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Publish Date: July 19, 2019
Imprint: Milford House
Genre: YA

FICTION / Coming of Age
YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Social Themes / Bullying
YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Loners & Outcasts

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Based on 3 reviews
It's much more than a young adult novel!

Leah Friedman, the book’s protagonist, narrates her middle school story of navigating an abusive bullying situation fictionally set in a northern New Jersey town. Dede, her nemesis, increasingly isolates Leah and verbally abuses her. The bully separates the eighth grader from any dignity and companionship. With inattentive parents and teachers looking the other way, Leah believes she has no way to defend herself other than responding with physical force. Upon finding herself alone with Dede, Leah strikes out with a rock and pen knife, inflicting minor but bloody damage.

School authorities called in the police, who charged Leah with assault and battery. With the aid of her creative lawyer and a forward-thinking judge, Leah received an alternative sentence to complete an acting term at a local Shakespeare troop of other juvenile offenders. This novel approach to juvenile justice enriched peer and parental relationships and opened new opportunities for Leah.

While young girls may especially enjoy reading about Leah’s experiences, parents, school administrators, teachers, and juvenile justice workers will benefit from her tale. Bullying is a significant problem in our society, requiring more vigilance and creative solutions.

To learn how things turn out, I highly encourage all to pick up a copy of Sentenced to Shakespeare!

Healing Penance

Iris Dorbian scores high on Sentenced to Shakespeare for her realistic portrayal of the teen angst that victims of bullies face. Retaliation and punishment bring mixed results. Fifteen-year-old Leah finally tires of a classmate's bullying by defending herself and fighting back. Arrested and charged with assault, Leah is sentenced to a Shakespeare program for first offenders that aims to rehabilitate these juveniles.
I found the book captivating with credible characters, original prose, and a fresh alternative to reform school or jail for these students. I heartily recommend Sentenced to Shakespeare for all students and teachers fifteen to sixty-five. Judges, lawyers, and law enforcement personnel, as well as parents, would also benefit from reading a realistic rendering of bullying and its consequences.

Five stars

I would call Sentenced to Shakespeare a “thoughtful page turner.” Thoughtful because it’s a sensitive exploration into the topic of adolescent bullying that steers clear of tropes/cliches and digs deeper into the character’s thoughts and emotions, and a page turner because it kept me glued to the pages to find out what was going to happen next (several times I had to stop reading to go to work and each time I was annoyed that I had to put this novel down.) Also, I’m not sure why, but I also got a little “Freaks and Geeks” (the television show) vibe from the story. This is a YA story, but it’s original enough and crafted well enough (both plot and language) to have crossover appeal to an adult audience