“The Shakespeares had the builders in again.” As opening lines to historical novels go, it’s great. For a novel about the sixteen year old that Shakespeare, it’s glorious. Jan Mark never wrote but that she gave it her all, and her all was gleaming wit and intelligence. In Stratford Boys she gives the most famous writer in the world, ever (after God and His bible, of course), an ‘early years’: his lurching, hilarious, but always credible, entirely teen-typical first ‘go’ at play writing. Not your usual YA subject, not your usual YA approach and all the more fabulous for it.