Source- Review copy
Publisher- Simon & Schuster
Publication date- May 2012
Synopsis- Rosaline has been best friends with Rob since they were little kids. Recently, something deeper and more electric has entered their friendship, and when Rob returns after the summer break and asks Rosaline on a sort-of date, it seems they are destined to become a couple, just as Rosaline always knew they would be. The next day at school, a mysterious, beautiful girl arrives: Rosaline’s long-lost cousin, Juliet. And suddenly it looks as if Rosaline might be about to lose her best friend AND her new boyfriend…
Review- I was feeling a bit stuck about how to write up this review because I’m not really sure how I feel about the book. When You Were Mine is supposed to be the tale of Romeo and Juliet that was never told, the one about Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline.
It begins with this statement: Shakespeare got it wrong.
It’s a pretty big statement, but I’m not a die-hard Romeo and Juliet fan so I was open to a different interpretation of the story. So, what I expected from this story was the same kind of setting and era as the Shakespearean classic- not a modern-day setting with adolescents who say ‘like’ and have mobile phones. I felt like the only similarities was the author using the same names and surnames.
The story is told in first POV by teenager, Rosaline. It took me a little while to get used to her voice because it’s very adolescent and there were times I did roll my eyes because she explained herself a little too much, when I would’ve preferred to read between the lines.
Perhaps it was my expectations that hindered me from fully immersing myself in this book. I just kept thinking, so when does the Romeo and Juliet storyline come into play?
Rob (presumably Romeo) is Rosaline’s neighbour and best friend, but he’s also the love of her life. It’s not until just before he goes away to camp for 2 months that he hints to Rosaline his reciprocated feelings. The day he returns, on the first day back at school he asks her out on a date and Rosaline happily agrees. They kiss and reveal their feelings for each other and it seems like a lovely relationship is about to blossom…
But then Rosaline’s cousin Juliet, who has been M.I.A for the past ten years returns to town and asks Rob to the school dance and he agrees (dumb move!). Then they hook up at the dance right in front of Rosaline and to be honest I thought it was a bit far-fetched. Rob and Rosaline had been best friends their whole life and I would have expected him to have a bit more respect for their friendship than to throw it all away for a snobby, rude girl he just met- but he did! Although internally devastated and mourning the loss of their friendship, Rosaline feigns disinterest and goes on with her life. There are plenty of bitchy scenes that involve her best friends Charlie and Olivia- the popular girls at school. In the meantime, Rosaline begins to see the sarcastic and loner Len, as something more than just an annoying guy at school and develops feelings for him. Only she still can’t see Len in any serious light because she has strong feelings for Rob. Then the story become weirder as Rob goes off the rails, there’s various family conflict and Juliet’s strong persona begins to crumble as a family truth is revealed. The ending was both expected (because of the original) but also unexpected (because it’s a contemporary YA story which began with the typical YA writing conventions).
I guess this book is typical of the YA genre in its setting, dialogue and love dilemmas but it’s also quite different in the path that it follows as initially we are led to believe that Rob and Rosaline are meant to be together. I do wish the family conflict was more fleshed out and that Juliet’s motives in getting revenge had a more believable foundation.
I think I would have enjoyed this story more if it hadn’t been compared to Romeo and Juliet and had just been a story about a bunch of teenagers trying to figure things out, because at the back of my mind I kept trying to find the comparisons and this interfered with my reading experience. If you’re a contemporary YA fan and you’re happy to overlook the adolescent voice and dialogue then give this one a go, I’ll leave you to make up your own opinion about this one.
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