Now that summer is upon us and TV shows have started rerunning, I thought it might be nice to revive the book reviews feature on this blog in case you're looking for your next great beach read. First up: When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle.
Excuse for a moment the horridly cheesy cover and picture a YA novel reminiscent of 10 Things I Hate About You because it retells Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and is set in a picturesque modern-day California high school. Now imagine tackling the narrative from the point of view of Rosaline, Romeo's first love whom he abandons for Juliet.
That's pretty much the feel and premise of Serle's debut novel in a nutshell. In When You Were Mine, Rosaline has been in love with the boy-next-door and her best friend Rob her entire life. She's convinced that senior year will be the year they finally become a couple. But what she doesn't bargain for is her beautiful, wealthy, and emotionally unstable cousin Juliet moving back to town. Rob's deep, sudden infatuation with Juliet leaves Rosaline heartbroken. As she copes with heartbreak through the support of her friends and begins to heal, a social misfit named Len begins to pique her romantic interest.
Retelling Shakespeare effectively is not easy. (Nor, for that matter, is living down a comparison to 10 Things I Hate About You.) But Serle pulls off quite the balancing act by respecting her source material while making the story feel contemporary. The narrative moves along at a good pace and the characters are deftly drawn. Rosaline, Rob and Juliet feel like unfamiliar incarnations of people we thought we knew, and the supporting cast of friends is populated by quirky individuals. The prose is straightforward but heartfelt. (I'll admit, I even sniffled a little when Rob died and Rosaline was grieving.) All in all, a satisfying summer read.