Title: When You Were Mine
Author: Rebecca Serle
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 334 Pages
ISBN-10: 1442433132 (Simon Pulse)
ISBN-13: 978-1442433137 (Simon Pulse)
Reviewed by: Emmy
In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale. What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.
Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy…and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.
Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….
Quick & Dirty: This novel takes a long time to get rolling, mainly because the characters stick to their stereotypes and this retelling brings nothing new to the table.
Opening Sentence: Shakespeare got it wrong.
I’m going to preface this review by saying that I study Shakespeare. I’ve taken classes devoted entirely to him. So I probably have more background in Shakespeare than the average reader. I have expectations to any retelling I pick up, which is namely that if you’re going to re-work one of the most famous stories of all time, you do it well or not at all. Serle didn’t make the cut. In her version, everything you think you know about our star-crossed lovers is wrong. It all goes back to our characters.
Rosaline’s in love with Romeo — I mean, Rob — so when he finally asks her out, she thinks it’s true love and roses for eternity. The reader knows his attention won’t last longer than it takes for Juliet to show up and is forced to wait for the other shoe to drop. There are so many ways Serle could’ve worked this, but because she didn’t take the time to flesh out our characters everything they do seems silly and pretentious. They’re shallow and self-serving. Rosaline over-analysing everything Rob says until you just want to reach into the pages and pull her hair out.
The good part is, this doesn’t last. Just like in Shakespeare, everything interesting happens after Act Three. This is mostly because we finally see Rosaline and Len together. Their budding romance makes them far more likable — especially Rosaline — and their scenes are far, far more interesting than anything we saw between Rob and our heroine. Serle works hard to make Rosaline and Len the endearing characters Romeo and Juliet were in the play.
As a result, Serle drags Rob and Juliet through the mud. I really, really hate when authors slut-shame their characters as a way of making them “evil.” Juliet’s role is that of the psychologically unstable boyfriend-stealing slut, and she sticks pretty close to what you would expect her to do. Rob also becomes more and more unstable — which is mostly alarming because he ends up yelling at Juliet in a very threatening way, in public, and no one cares. I found the lack of reaction slightly disturbing. Rosaline’s halfhearted attempt to befriend Juliet (again) at the end of the novel seemed like Serle’s way of trying to make Rosaline the better person, but because I was never completely invested in the characters to begin with, I didn’t really care.
It’s a light book — I knew that picking it up — but I still found myself disappointed that Serle brushes over the darker aspects of Romeo and Juliet that have made it such a lasting work. The theme of the novel is choice, and the fact we all have choices, which I did like. The writing wasn’t anything special, but it also wasn’t bad. I flew through the book in a little over two hours, so you can be sure that even though it’s 300 pages it’s an easy read.
“Jeez,” I say. “You look like a mess.”
“Thanks,” he says. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
“Do you want some ice?”
“I’ll be fine.”
“I know, but that thing looks pretty bad.”
“Can I just come in?”
“Sure,” I say, stepping to the side. “Sorry. My room’s upstairs.”
“You run a tight ship,” he says. “No guided tour.”
“Later,” I say. “Right now we have to work.”
He’s holding a bag of Twizzlers in his hand, and his backpack is missing.
“Where’s your study stuff?”
He holds up the bag.
“Your favorite kind, no less.”
I stop. “How do you know that?”
FTC Advisory: Simon Pulse provided me with a copy of When You Were Mine. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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