When I was writing reviews with Michelle over at Galleysmith we would have book discussions from time to time. We have had quiet a few going for a while now and since Michelle is on a hiatus we decided to post them over here.
Title: When You Were Mine[Amazon]
Author: Rebecca Serle[website]
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle
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….
Andi: As a Romeo and Juliet fan, okay, I’ll admit it is the Leonardo DiCaprio version, I was so excited about this book when I heard about it and I have to tell you M, it lived up to my expected hype. It really was a fabulous take on a classic tale. It had a great story of friendship and love mixed in with heartache and longing. Serle took a classic, familiar story and made it into something modern and fresh and from a different point of view. For me having Rosaline, the much forgotten first love of Romeo, as the main character was pretty ingenious. What did you think?
Michelle: LOL! You and your Leo….
I’m going to admit (and it likely won’t come as a surprise to many who know me), the classics in literature do nothing for me. I can’t read them without being bored to tears and eventually giving up. That is why I love me some retellings (classics, fairy tales, you name it). Because I can get down with the general vibe of the original story and still enjoy the contemporary tone.
Serle did a great job with this retelling because I really did feel the irony and the Shakespearean nature without having to endure all of the “doest thou..” crapola. I couldn’t agree more on the ingenious selection of telling Rose’s story as opposed to the more obvious choices of Romeo or Juliet. Seeing their story through her eyes and also experiencing her own story was fantastical.
A: It added something to the original that was missing, it added conflict. By making it more a ‘triangle'(and I use that word lightly), it gave the characters more depth I think and let the audience feel more. In the original I felt bad for Romeo and Juliet, but something about the addition of Rosaline made the whole story more gut wrenching. it also helped that I hated Juliet and Rob in this book. HAHA. Have you ever seen two more spoiled people that thought they deserved whatever they wanted? At one point I wanted to be the one to do Juliet in!
M: UGH, yes! Juliet was a shrewish b*tch. I just wanted to throttle her at every turn. I did want the background between the girls to be a bit more fleshed out though. The controversy that lead to the family feud was too vague it needed more depth to really show why the events that were spurned occurred. It felt a bit contrived that Juliet went for Rob so quickly. Sure, I got that it was revenge at the start but without that deeper backstory it just felt somewhat forced.
A: I guess that didn’t really bother me as much because even Rose didn’t know it was revenge so I didn’t feel out of the loop in terms of that aspect. But I do agree about the family feud. I didn’t really like it and didn’t get why it was an issue between the brothers in the long run. It was definitely added to make the conflict bigger but I think if a different problem was the cause it would have flowed better.
M: By focussing solely on the teens I found that the story lost some of it’s punch. If a teacher wanted to use this book as a tool to in a literature class it would definitely be lacking in giving the true perspective on the original. However, that isn’t necessarily the goal here. Being a retelling it’s goal is to differentiate itself from the original. But it should also carry through the essence so that the reader who isn’t familiar with the original could go to it and see the similarities. Serle definitely does this in spades with the relationship between Rose and Juliet and the boys but not much anywhere else. Can you imagine how much more awesome it would have been if we’d seen more of the parents, the conflict and the interaction they had in the relationships? I think that would have given me some of that awesome angst I so long for in a story like this.
A: And we do know how much you love your angst, don’t we?! Haha!
But seriously, I do agree to an extent. A little more background would have really upped the ante some. But I also liked that Rosaline was the main focus just for the fact that she is such a non-entity in the original. I think what may have helped a little more was more Juliet. Yes, I hated the character. She was definitely not my favorite at all, but with some more connection, whether through flashbacks, stories or current situations, between her and Rosaline and even Rob wood have made just a hint of difference and really showed the animosity she felt towards her cousin and why Rosaline was so betrayed by her actions.
M: Word THAT!
Angst is one of the things I like best in a story. Particularly when it’s done right and realistically!
To your point about Rose, I agree. I knew very little about her so focusing on her as the primary point of view was a good thing. Like you’ve said showing her through the relationships she’s built with Juliet and Rob would have gone a long way. She seemed a bit bland for the most part. Pining away for Rob when I didn’t see much chemistry there. Also, what was it that Rob saw in Juliet to draw him away from his life-long friend? Sure, she was beautiful and had money but there had to be more depth to it to really have him gravitating to her so quickly. Don’t you think?
A: Yeah, I just didn’t see what was so hypnotizing about Juliet that Rob would do such a complete 180. The only thing that made sense was that whole ‘meant to be’ crap that is a massive theme in the Shakespeare story, but it wasn’t explored much in this book so it just kind of didn’t connect for me.
I will say there was one quote that I think perfectly summed up this book. I mean it is beyond perfect when you think about it.
“They died together; they’ll always be remembered together. It’s decided, once and for all. He was hers. The rumors don’t matter; they’ll fade…People may remember it was suicide, but my name won’t be attached. It will just be two lovers, fused together forever.”
That to me is the essence of the whole story and why I loved it so much. Rosaline is never connected to the story and I loved how Serle pointed that out so poetically with the simplest of statements.
I love that you guys did a discussion. I was just reading a post on the Nerdy Book Club blog about two teachers/librarians who were doing this and thought that it was pretty cool!