For us, everything was a performance. Everything poetic.”

i’m writing this at 12:30 and i’m sleepy and tired but i just finished if we were villains by m.l. rio and i think i’ll have my breakdown now, thank you very much.

if we were villains by m.l. rio

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

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

5. Bleeding. Stars.

for one second, let’s forget logic or realism and imagine a place where a group of beautiful, messed up students converse purely by exchanging pretentious Shakespeare dialogue, everything is poetic, everything is dramatic, everything is intense and intimate. and this group of beautiful actors? they’re fucked up in their heads and for each other so much that you can’t separate love, hate, jealousy and obsession from their emotions for each other.

now add murder and lies to that equation and you got it, that’s the book.

my thoughts while reading the book were somewhere along the lines of: “wow this is so pretentious i love it, everyone is too drunk to know their own name but they can still banter in shakespeare quotes perfectly, oLIVer anD JaMeS, richard wtf dude chill, ok what”

i love dark academia. there’s something about this genre that’s so enticing because it’s all about passion and obsession and secrets and lies and love, i’m trash for it.

and this book just? broke? me? i need answers and i refuse to function normally till i do. just leave me alone in this secluded world of glamour and pretentiousness where classes include sitting on couches, drinking tea and arguing over literature. BECAUSE WHERE IS THIS UNIVERSITY, I CAN’T ACT FOR SHIT BUT I JUST WANT TO EXPERIENCE THIS HEAVENLY ACADEMIA.

Plot & Characters

One sin, I know, another doth provoke; Murder’s as near to lust as flame to smoke.”

if we were villains tells the story of seven friends enrolled in an elite arts college, studying drama and theater. they don’t just study their syllabus, they inhale it, live it, consume it. obsession is what keeps them alive, with each other and with shakespeare.

they aren’t perfect though, far from it. there are undercurrent tones of jealousy and competitiveness, love and admiration, hatred and obsession beneath the pure friendship they feel for each other.

and then one night ruins it all, everything falls apart, their small family savagely fractures.

flash forward 10 years and Oliver, the underdog in the group, is now getting released from jail for a crime he may or may not have committed 10 years ago and the group of passionate drama students are now broken, bitter adults.

Do you blame Shakespeare for any of it?” 
The question is so unlikely, so nonsensical coming from such a sensible man, that I can’t suppress a smile. “I blame him for all of it,” I say.”

this book read like a modern shakespeare tragedy in the most twisted way possible and even though it felt like someone twisted a knife in my gut and i am very much not ok, i still want to reread it and cry because this, right here, is a masterpiece.


in other words, let’s talk about oliver and james because, haha, i will die for them. these two lyric mad cinnamon rolls who loved each other so much slkfdjsliefhefi EXCUSE ME BUT I WANT MORE JAVER CONTENT.

their love for each other is unconventional because it just…is, you know? it is a mix of deep admiration and friendship and a quiet kind of loneliness, a deep understanding of each other. it wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t love each other.

James and I put each other through the kind of reckless passions Gwendolyn once talked about, joy and anger and desire and despair. After all that, was it really so strange?”

the thing with this book is that there is no logic, no equations or facts to explain everything that happened: this group of lyric mad actors and everything they felt for themselves, each other and Shakespeare, their passions and dreams- everything is SO UNHEALTHY AND TOXIC. at one point, a literal murder is committed, and you’re just thinking, “yeah lol called that” and then having a mild crisis because WHY AM I LOVING THIS SO MUCH, AM I OKAY???

there is no logic, my friend, only madness.


i…hate….open endings 🙂

literally, i was screaming at my phone and almost tossed it after reading that last line because I WANT ANSWERS AND NO, ACTUALLY, I WANT ONE SPECIFIC ANSWER AND THAT’S IT.

if you don’t think oliver went back for james and they started a life together, i will fight you and you can pry this fantasy from my dead, cold fingers. because, you know what, he did. he went back to james and that’s it, i’m not listening to any other ideas, bye.


anyway, in summary, If We Were Villains broke my fragile heart and i want everyone to read it so we can start a club together where we walk around aimlessly and start crying randomly while clutching the book in a death grip.

i scare myself sometimes.


10 thoughts on “if we were villains // EVERYTHING IS FUCKED UP AND I DON’T KNOW WHY I LOVE IT”

  1. we’re going to have to schedule these breakdowns at time other than after midnight, you need proper sleep

    did you say a GROUP of pretentious, dramatic, and intense students??? sis, i am sold right now, no need to go on. I WANT TO SIT ON WORN COUCHES AND DRAMATICALLY SIP TEA WHILE ARGUING OVER LITERATURE!!!! why doesnt this exist im //deeply// offended.
    nimika if i DONT have this book read by the end of june this year, you are allowed to take a plane over and smack me but that would be 100% unacceptable. it sounds freaking amazing and morbid and pompous and messed up, and ma’am, that’s exactly how i like my books

    this review was a masterpiece

    Liked by 1 person

    1. every time you basically order me to go to sleep makes me want to mElt with softness bc omg ily

      and may, YES! a group of pretentious lyric mad beautiful drama students and Shakespeare and murder and angst and intrigue and intense love and SO MUCH ARGUING OVER LITERATURE AND MORALITY and it’s so evil and immoral and dark ahjmehehsks.

      you know id never hit you with a plane but kidnap you on it and then make you read the book but like, i already know you’re gonna be done reading it anyway so *shrugs*

      your comment was a masterpiece


  2. Okay wow this book sounds so twisted and intriguing and I love stories like that with groups of students and a mystery and an elite art college and I’m just way too curious about this now?! Thank you for putting this on my radar!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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