Romeo? Oh, Romeo!
Yes, that is the Bard’s bad boy on the cover of the new Penguin edition of the classic Shakespeare tragedy.
No frills or lace. Instead, Romeo sports a white tank top and a three-day stubble.
He still talks funny, but publishers hope the catchier cover will at least get young people to give the Elizabethan prose a try.
Shakespeare owes a debt to the “Hunger Games” trilogy, the “Twilight” series and Harry Potter.
The runaway success of those series taught publishers that young people weaned on videos are not afraid to pick up old-fashioned books, some of which can go pound for pound with “Moby Dick” or “War and Peace.”
The classics, which are in the public domain, provide an inexpensive source of new content to fill that growing appetite. The stories are free. It just costs a little to update the packaging.
“A lot of the old covers are these painterly, pale covers that would never get your attention if you were passing them on the shelf,” says Shanta Newlin, director of publicity at the Penguin Young Readers Group. “They were getting a little stale.”
So the brooding Pip on the cover of Penguin’s new “Great Expectations” would look right at home in a downtown club.
Jane Eyre, Heathcliff and the Dashwood sisters are painted like modern fashion sketches on the covers of new editions of the Bronte and Jane Austen classics published by Splinter, an imprint of Sterling Publishing aimed at young readers.
A new edition of “Wuthering Heights” published by Harper Teen, an imprint of Harper Collins, goes so far as to include an endorsement from two of the “Twilight” characters.
“Bella & Edward’s Favorite Book,” reads the blurb on the cover of the novel first published in 1847.
And it works. A representative of Harper Teen says that edition of “Wuthering Heights” sold more copies than the average new release for young readers, and no authors or agents to be paid.