Discussion Second Chance Sunday – My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Like we did for a handful of other books Michelle(Galleysmith) and I also discussed My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. As you can tell we had vastly different star ratings but both enjoyed the book all the same.

 

myTitle: My Life Next Door [Amazon]
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick [website]
Genre:  Contemporary
Publisher: Dial
Source/Type: Purchase/Hardcover
Stars: 5 out of 5 me, 3 out of 5 Michelle

Publisher Description:
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

Discussion:
M: Ok, so I’m seriously never having that many kids!  Can you imagine?  Egads!!  I mean, I adored how close they were and how they were so protective of their family, but I just can’t imagine how difficult it is to maintain those relationships.  Seriously, Jase is the prime example — he’s the strong stable influence who is the caretaker (the surrogate father really) and doesn’t have much opportunity to be who he really wants to be.  BUT, this also makes him so super appealing because he cares so deeply.

A: I think the fact that Jase was such a strong parental unit for all of those kids is what endeared me to him. Those kids needed structure and sadly he was the only one that was really able to provide it and that shouldn’t have been his job. He should have been getting into trouble with Samantha and not having to deal with his parents decisions. Just the thought of dealing with 8 kids made me feel physically ill! NO THANK YOU!

M:  In that way I had to suspend a bit of reality.  I just couldn’t see how two parents would actively continue to have that many kids when they knew they had to rely on one of them to take care of the others.  I mean, big families are fantastic and I do think there is something to be said for teamwork but I kind of related to Samantha’s mom in the “this may not be the most responsible choice” department.  Sure, she was a total judgemental bitch and went about it the wrong way but was she 100% wrong about the fact that maybe Jase’s parents bit off more than they could chew?

A: Oh, I agree 100% there! The one and only time I agreed with Samantha’s mom was with her thoughts on the Garrett’s, having all those kids. But man did that woman suck! As irresponsible as the Garrett’s were, they were WAY BETTER parents than Samantha’s mother. ARGH I hated that woman! Everything she did just got on my nerves. She was so overbearing and abrupt. And it was so obvious she hated children, hers included!

M: Ha, so true!  She was definitely not built for kids.

*spoiler alert*

I was pretty surprised at how easily she was convinced to cover-up the accident.  I get that she had a political career and I also think it fit her personality, to an extent, but it felt way over the top and forced.  That guy who was the campaign manager was a bit of a charicature of the evil foe.  I might have found mom’s keeping the big bad a secret if he’d been a bit more appealing and manipulative than he was.  All we saw was this guy who was a good double talker, I never quite latched on to what it was about it (outside of his political prowess) that appealed to the mother.  Heck, I didn’t even see the reasoning that she was simply lonely.  Had that element, or something to that effect, had been built in I think I would have been more understanding of mom’s desire to cover this big bad up.  Not only that but virtually blackmail her daughter to keep it a secret as well.

A: That actually didn’t surprise me at all. Right from the start the mother was completely all about herself, appearances and her career. She wanted her children to be perfect so she would seem perfect. The vacuuming was a key part of that for me. Honestly I thought she was bi-polar at some points since she acted so manically with Samantha and so controlling. I’ve seen a parent like that through a friend of mine so I honestly wasn’t surprised at all. I was surprised by the Garretts’ reaction to the news. As much as I loved this book, and I did love it to pieces, I thought their reaction was very anti-climactic.

What did you think about that? And while we are on the anti-climactic portion of this ride, what did you think about the whole Nan thing? Personally I thought she sucked, but that’s just me.

M: So true, the Garrett’s reaction and ultimate acceptance was convenient.  I can’t imagine many would be so easy going about something so devastating to their family.  It was great for the romance between Jase and Samantha but that too seemed a bit unbelievable.  What teen boy (no matter how swoon-worthy) is going to chase after a girl who kept such a secret?  a secret that has such a huge impact on the lives of his family.  It actually seemed a bit out of character for Jase to be all about Sam in that case as opposed to more concerned for his family, particularly given his role as primary care-taker.

As for Nan, I thought she was unnecessary.  She didn’t hurt the story but I didn’t feel like she was all that essential. Particularly given the fact that there was plenty of conflict in the story (Sam’s relationship with her mom, the accident with Jase’s father, her secret romance, etc).  If anything it would have been nice for her to have some support somewhere.  Someone she could go to for support.

To that end what about Samantha’s sister?  Thoughts on her role in the whole thing?

A: The sister was another character that I hated. She was so selfish and didn’t think of anyone but herself. She just took off for the summer and lived her life while leaving Samantha in a house with a blatantly crazy mother! I just didn’t think it was fair of her. I also didn’t get that she cared one iota about her sister. She basically was all about getting some from her boyfriend and the drama she could create in her head. She brushed off everything Samantha said and that bothered me.

But really all of this was secondary to me for the most part. Even the accident. I have to admit the reason I loved the book so much, the writing aside, was the romance. The way it unfolded seemed so completely real and innocent and exactly like a teenage first love story should go. I just ate every single part of Jase and Samantha up. From their first date, to their first kiss, to their first fight. Add in a friendship with Tim and I was hooked. What did you think about all of that?

M:  I don’t know, I kind of got the sister a little bit.  She’d already experienced the crazy and finally had her out.  She didn’t give a crap about how people felt about her behavior anymore and was willing to get herself out of the situation.  I suspect Samantha might have done some of the same given the opportunity.  Having said that, I do think the sister could have removed herself from the situation and still been more supportive of Samantha’s predicaments.  At the very least she could have been a sounding board or given advice on how she handled the crazy.

Ahhhh, yes the romance.  That really was the best part of the book.  I did find myself wondering how he was suddenly so interested in her, particularly given the fact that he’d known for some time that she’d been watching his family.  However, that issue is easily overlooked because they were so sweet with each other.  I was glad that there were some bumpy times too.  If it were too sticky sweet that would have turned me off.

Oh, Tim! Timmy, Tim, Tim.  He may well be one of my most favorite characters in the book.  His relentless pursuit of Jase’s sister was such great comic relief from the drama.  I’d actually be interested to see a companion book based on him.  His character progression was definitely the deepest given his addictions and wrong-turns in life.  I found myself looking forward to seeing how he was doing when he popped up.  The fact that he ended up being a better friend to Samantha (and by extension becoming a good friend of Jase) than his sister was a great development in the story.

A: I loved the comedic timing of Tim! It added an extra element to the book that just made the whole story better. Bringing him into the fold and using his drug problem at different parts of the story was spot on. I loved the progression of this character and the message that it gave that not everything is so hopeless. All you need is someone to believe in you and give you a chance. You know?

M: I do!  Overall, I thought the book had a message of hope.  Samantha’s desire to be part of something larger than herself and to feel a sense of belonging was finally fulfilled with Jase and his family.  She also learned that doing the right thing despite the consequences is always the best course of action.

*original post HERE

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Discussion: Time Between Us – Tamara Ireland Stone

time

Title: Time Between Us[Amazon]
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone[website]
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: ARC/Paperback
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Discussion:
Michelle: In reading some of your thoughts on Twitter and Goodreads it seems like I may have liked this one better than you.

Anna’s struggle to overcome her introverted and somewhat isolated life to befriend, then ultimately fall in love with Bennett grabbed me from the jump.  Ha ha, get it….jump…  Oh alright, lame.  Anyway, even though the story started a bit slow for me I was not at all disappointed with the progression of Anna and Bennett’s relationship.  Her confusion paired with the desire she felt for him add a definite tension throughout the story.  Add to that the fact that there were the three different secrets that were being revealed over time and I was pretty well hooked.

In fact, the pacing of the reveal of the three secrets did quite a lot to make this story a winner for me.  The onion layer metaphor definitely fits this story as it was so layered both from the plot and character standpoint that I was intrigued to find out what was going to happen next.

Andi: Yah, I wasn’t 100% crazy about this one. It was too much like The Time Traveler’s Wife for me and I really didn’t like that movie (no, I never read the book). I thought the movie was annoying and confusing and contrite and I honestly think that lead to my lukewarm feelings on Time Between Us.

I almost wish I never saw the movie because then I think I would have liked this way more than I did. Sure I thought the pacing was a bit off and slow, with nothing happening until like page 200, but I loved both Anna and Bennett and I loved how their relationship unfolded.

M: I saw that movie (didn’t read the book either) too.  I actually liked it so maybe that is another reason why Time Between Us was a winner for me.  I liked the concept of jumping through time and still attempting to maintain relationships.  There was that difficulty there but still no matter what time and place Bennett jumped to there was this bond between them.  The discovery of why and the exploration of how they could maintain it given the circumstances was enthralling.

A: I did like that part of the story, the reason why they could maintain a bond. That really kept my interest. I was fascinated by how it all worked and I loved how Anna figured it out in the end with Bennett’s help and that she finally started to live for herself. But everything else just fell flat for me and I don’t know why. I can’t pinpoint what I didn’t like the most and why I had no connection to any of it. Maybe I just don’t work with time travel. 🙂

M:  It was interesting how Anna’s independence at the end was what finally brought them together.  It was like Bennett was able to feed off her strength in order to materialize back into her life.  That was a fabulous way to end the story.  Usually I don’t like the ambiguous ending where you’re left to imagine what is going to happen in the future but it really worked here.  I could tell that no matter what they would be in each other’s lives in some capacity.

I did, however, struggle with the idea that Bennett’s family knew of his ability and proceeded to react the way they did.  I guess I think that was a bit unrealistic.  Not so much the father being a con artist and wanting to use it for profit (though even that seemed convenient) but that his mother would allow him to embroil his sister.  I have a hard time believing any parent would be keen on that.

A: OMG yes!! I get that you need to suspend reality in books like this since you know, time travel isn’t possible, but it still needs to be believable. Sure they had to get Bennett to Anna somehow, but the fact that it was because he lost his sister just didn’t really work for me. I didn’t buy it at all.

I also didn’t like Anna and Bennett changing an event to make it easier for Anna and her friends. I totally got why she would want to do it. That I didn’t have an issue with. What I hated was that Bennett did it and they made it into a game. As much as I hate it, things happen for a reason and part of growing up is dealing with them, even the hard stuff. By changing the tiniest of things she took something away from her friends and she had no right to do that. Can you tell that irked me?! HA

M:  LOL! I couldn’t tell at all. 😉

Also, I think that there could have been a bit more exploration of the problems that playing that game really caused.  It was certainly touched on but perhaps a bit more tension between Bennett and Anna.  Or a bit more infusion of how doing so threw things off just like Bennett taking his sister with him did.  There was a lot to this time travel theory that I enjoyed but some of it (mainly the scientific elements) felt unfinished.  Then again this wasn’t a sci-fi story or a book where the main exploration was on that science.  It was a primarily character based story and a good one at that.  That could be another reason why I liked it.  I could suspend the reality of the science because I knew it was more about Bennett and Anna’s emotions and character.

A: And maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy it as much, I just couldn’t separate the two. I had a hard time reconciling the logical part of my brain with the creative part. I just wanted things to make more sense and because it didn’t to me, I lost some of the feel of the romance and the emotion.

M: Understandable, not all books click with all people.  It’s kinda refreshing that there are a few books out there that we don’t agree on.  It’s so rare!

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Discussion: Reunited – Hilary Weisman Graham

reunitedTitle: Reunited[Amazon]
Author: Hilary Weisman Graham[website]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Purchased/Hardcore
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.

Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

Discussion:
Michelle
: Road trip!!!!

Let me kick it off by saying this was one of the more realistic road trip books out there.  Not a lot of kitchy tourist stops or Americana to be had like some others in the genre.  I enjoyed that it was more of a right of passage and a bonding experience.  That the three (completely opposite) girls who drifted from BFFs to strangers came back together for a post-graduation last hurray felt real to me.  Not only that but the circumstances that brought them all to this place and time made perfect sense.

Andi: That’s a very good point. There was no stopping at the world’s biggest ball of twine, or seeing a massive ball of lint or some dead celeb’s grave stones. It was basically a story about three girls figuring out who they are and where they belong while holding on to something from their past, something that was completely pure and innocent before adolescence screwed everything up. But I have to admit I couldn’t shake the comparison to that Britney Spears’ movie Crossroads.

M:  Totally!  Thankfully there wasn’t that really annoying Britney Spears character though.  Speaking of which who was your favorite?  I found Alice to be just a tad bit too annoying.  Her desperation for the threesome to reconnect and for the trip to go smoothly was just slightly overbearing.  I get it, I do, and it wasn’t completely off-putting.  Her behavior did fit her personality in that anal retentive and needy way but it still felt way too desperate given the amount of time the girls had been separated from their childhood friendship.

In looking at the three I would say that Tiernan was my absolute fav.  Her attitude had me laughing and rooting for her.  The underlying vulnerability gave her that rootability that I enjoy in a character.

A: Tiernan was my favorite too. She was the one with spunk and had a spark about her that made her likable. Alice I didn’t find believable at all and Summer just seemed to vapid for me. And I hated that she kept talking to that jerk of a boyfriend. She wasn’t a strong girl at all. Now Tiernan, she was the one that stood up for herself and she had the best attitude. And some of her one liners were priceless. You could tell she acted “cool” and that being there didn’t mean anything to her, but I think it meant the most to her by far.

M:  That’s interesting because even though I wasn’t a huge Summer fan either I do think she was the character that developed most throughout the story.  She went from being the whiney popular girl who thought the other two were beneath her to being someone who was finally able to put herself on the same level as her peers.  In doing so she also got a backbone and gave the loser boyfriend the boot.

Alice being the doormat seemed to stay pretty stationary throughout the story.  She had her moment of strength at the end but even that felt slightly weak to me.  Like she was being forced into it so that she could have her “moment” of change like Summer and Tiernan did.

A: Yeah, Alice didn’t grow or do anything as a character for me at all. To me she was the girl that would raise her hand at the end of class when the teacher asked if anyone had questions and would say they needed homework. She was too much of a goody goody and I felt she judged her friends and never once loosened up and enjoyed herself with them. Actually to be honest she really got on my nerves and had to have been the most annoying teenager ever!

M:  HA!  Didn’t you just loathe those nerds?!  So, the roadtrip…

First, I’ll say that it made me think of you a little bit because the boy band was reminiscent of NKOTB and I know how you love you some of the boys!  The fact that they were road tripping to catch their farewell concert was inspired.  As reasons go this one was a good choice.  It, as we’ve mentioned, was a trip that was filled with pretty realistic events.  They met some quirky people, made some romantic connections, and ultimately found parts of themselves that they’d been long denying.  All without visiting the world’s largest ball of twine.

What I *really* appreciated was the fact that Tiernan’s mom showed up.  That even though her daughter left on the trip without telling her she didn’t just wave it off and leave fixing their problems for when she got home.  She chased her down and gave her crap.  I liked that a lot.

A: Me love NKOTB? What gave you that idea?! Could it be the four concerts I’ve gone to recently, the Danny Wood pin in my office or the New Kids hoodie I’m rocking in my Twitter profile pic?! HA

But seriously I totally agree with you. The reason for the road trip was so cute and innocent. It was something you don’t usually see in books. It kept the trip kind of cool and fun without it being a cliche mess of a road trip.

And I agree about Tiernan’s mom. In most books the parents just don’t seem to care about their children and they just let them runamuck, but I loved that Tiernan’s mom physically went after her and talked to her. Do I think it is believable that she would just be okay with the road trip after one chat with her daughter, not really, but it was a nice change of pace for her to go after her.

What did bother me though was the band part at the end. That was just way too out there for it really even happen! The chances of that are so slim that it took away some of the believability that had been building.

M:  Yea the believability scale of that ending was way more than I would expect not just the contest but the very end where it got wrapped up with a little bow.  That would NEVER happen.

Having said that I did enjoy this book.  It was a nice piece of fun and and certainly a quick entertaining read.  Definitely one to pick up after reading something more intense or dark.

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Discussion: Promised – Caragh O’Brien

promised

Title: Promised(Birthmarked Series)[Amazon]
Author: Caragh O’Brien[website]
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Genre: Dystopian
Source/Type: ARC/Paperback
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:After defying the ruthless Enclave, surviving the wasteland, and upending the rigid matriarchy of Sylum, Gaia Stone now faces her biggest challenge ever.  She must lead the people of Sylum back to the Enclave and persuade the Protectorat to grant them refuge from the wasteland.  In Gaia’s absence, the Enclave has grown more cruel, more desperate to experiment on mothers from outside the wall, and now the stakes of cooperating or rebelling have never been higher.  Is Gaia ready, as a leader, to sacrifice what–or whom–she loves most?

Discussion:
Andi: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I can’t adequately explain how much I loved this third and final book of the Birthmarked Trilogy. It had everything that pulled me into the first one and more. My Leon was back and with him was the Gaia I loved from the get go.

Michelle: Couldn’t agree more!  The second book wasn’t bad, just different, but I was glad to see O’Brien get back to the original tone and come out strong in the end.  In particular, I liked that Gaia got her balls back.  She was a bit wishy washy in book two and seeing her stand up to Leon’s father and the whole of the Enclave was well received on my part.  Vive la revolucion!

So let’s get down to it.  What did you think about Gaia’s progression in this book?

A: I think that was one of the things I loved most about this series. Gaia basically grew up right in front of our eyes. In book one she was a scared little girl, book two she was a confused, broken hearted orphan and in the final book she was an adult, a leader, that was ready to make difficult choices even if it came at a cost to her personally. She matured beyond her years in Promised and it made her all the more likable as a character. Between her solid relationship with Leon, her friendship with Will, and the comfort and leadership she provided for the people of New Sylum, she became the heroine she could have been from the start.

M: YES!  She was what made the book.  Her strength, ability and ultimate vulnerability carried the story to great depths.  Underlying that all she was so lonely (even though she was never really alone) and somewhat desperate for family.  Having lost her parents she wanted to be sure that her sister remained a part of her life at all costs and that was what drove her to take the risks she did.  It was what kept her going which I found to be truly enthralling.

That and her growing relationship with Leon.  Theirs was the type of love story that I enjoy a great deal.  There was so much push and pull to it.  The evolution of each of them individually then together as a couple was intriguing.  The underlying love was there but at times the angst of their situation and surroundings seeping in caused realistic problems.  That and the frustration, spite and all around determination they both had was fab-U-lous.

A: My heart really broke for Leon through a lot of it. His father just did not love him at all. He had no faith in him and found it easier to find the bad in him than the good and only cared about believing a story in his head than seeing who his son really was. Just like Gaia, Leon too was looking for a family, a place to belong because he never had that feeling of safety and security growing up. Gaia was that for him and if anything happened to her that the hands of his father he would never have forgiven himself.

That was one of the characteristics I loved about Leon, and Gaia too to an extent. They would have laid their lives down for each other without hesitation if they thought one of them would be saved. I hated what Leon’s father had done to Gaia, but she willingly would have done it just to save the boy she loved and relied on. You know what I mean?

M:  I absolutely know what you mean.  I found their dedication and loyalty to each other appealing as well.  That neither of them had that “what’s in it for me” outlook was fairly impressive.  I was equally impressed with O’Brien’s ability to keep from making those traits appear too over the top.  There wasn’t too much pining and hysterical behavior from either of them.  both were clear in their vision of what needed to happen, were proactive in planning the steps to get there, then active in making those steps come to pass.  They each thought of the other but didn’t also didn’t discount the greater population.  Both realized what the impact of their actions would be not only on themselves and their relationship but also the friends, family and general population that were relying on them to make things better.

To that point, what did you think of how the overall conflict with the Enclave played out and was resolved?

A: I must admit some of it seemed slightly rushed and a tad convenient. The scenes of the attack wasn’t 100% believable for me. It was slightly wrapped up in a nice tidy bow at the end and I guess it just left me wanting more. Maybe that was my issue and why I thought it was rushed. I want another book about these people. I want more story. I want aftermath so I felt just slightly cheated. O’Brien has a gold mine with these characters. I mean even in the second book, the book I wasn’t over the moon about, I was invested in what happened and what choices they made. So for the book/conflict to be done the way it was…I just wanted more. I still want more!

M:  I felt like the situation was rushed as well.  The whole premise of the story was built on this society and the differences between what was happening within the walls and without.  How one upheld the other.  The story veered, through the second book, into a relationship focus.  Mainly Gaia’s relationships.  This wasn’t a bad thing necessarily but it made the compelling story that the different societies rebelling with each other fall short.

Like you, I also would love something more from these characters.  A follow up several years later to see where everyone is would be fantastic!

A: Maybe we should start a campaign, get a petition going, call in the National Guard! Do you think that will get us some more of this wonderfulness? If so, I’m all in.

M:  I never rule out the possibility.  Sometimes if you scream loud enough and long enough people start to listen.  Or at the very least do what you want to shut you up!

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Discussion: When You Were Mine – Rebecca Serle

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.

when

Title: When You Were Mine[Amazon]
Author: Rebecca Serle[website]
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Gifted/Hardcore
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
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….

Discussion:
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.

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