When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle
|When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A reworking of Romeo and Juliet, told from the perspective of Romeo's original love, Rosaline. Serle doesn't really make more than very superficial use of the play - Shakespeare's Rosaline doesn't think much of Romeo, but this novel reverses that - and her characters are shallow and self-absorbed, leaving us with a fairly flimsy teen romance. However, the novel picks up and gains some maturing emotions towards the end, so it's not all bad.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: April 2012|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
In this modern-day retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Rosaline has been best friends with Rob ever since they were tiny. But recently, their friendship has grown. The electric crackle of attraction is sparking between them and they are tentatively inching their way towards a relationship. One night they kiss and Rosaline believes they are about to become the couple she has always believed they were destined to be. But then her estranged cousin Juliet arrives back in town. She makes it clear she wants Rob and will stop at nothing to get him. Rosaline can do nothing but watch as Juliet steals her boyfriend and her best friend...
I was really looking forward to reading When You Were Mine - I loved the Shakespearan idea, there's been a deal of pre-publication interest and movie rights have already been sold, and although it's a debut novel, the author has a longstanding involvement in YA fiction. Everything looked good and so it is with crashing disappointment I report that I really didn't like this book.
Serle doesn't make any more than a very superficial use of the play - Rob and Juliet fall in love but their relationship is doomed from the get-go. That's it, really. Even the very basic idea of Rosaline that Shakespeare gives us - she rejects Romeo, not the other way around - isn't taken up. Juliet spends most of the book as a cardboard cut-out of an evil bitch who's only good for slut-shaming (and slut-shaming really sets my teeth on edge). There isn't any real discussion of the main themes of the play beyond young love (and perhaps a bit of chance). And I didn't like the main characters - Rosaline and her friends are vapid, boy-and-fashion-obsessed, and Serle spends endless pages describing their success at manipulating the high school pecking order. Best friend Charlie's main virtue is presented as her sharp-elbowed ability to get herself to the front of the popularity queue. Sigh.
It's not that all this isn't credible or that readers won't immediately recognise and identity with the emotional landscape inhabited by Rosaline and her friends - they will. It's just that When You Were Mine is a fairly flimsy high school romance with some Shakesperean window dressing, not an interesting take on a beloved and classic play.
Having been so critical, I should say that the book picks up enormously towards the end - actually, when the focus shifts away from Shakespeare and when Serle's Rose starts to take some steps towards a real relationship and not the girlish fantasy love affair she had with Rob. There are some lovely and truly intense scenes here and a real sense that Rose is beginning to understand what fantastic potential her coming-of-age will bring. If only the whole book had been like this, I would have loved it, Shakespeare or no Shakespeare.
For some intensely romantic books about ill-fated first loves, you could look at Dangerous to Know by Katy Moran and Lucas by Kevin Brooks. Or if you want to see what a YA author can achieve when riffing on Shakespeare, try Exposure by Mal Peet, an updating of Othello.
You can read more book reviews or buy When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle at Amazon.com.
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