Mary’s Book Review: When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

How Excited Was I To Read This? 6. I knew it was a modern-day Romeo and Juliet with a twist, but I had never read that particular play. Or even seen the movie! At the time, my love for Leonardo DiCaprio began and ended with Titanic. There were only so many tragic young  death scenes my younger self could really appreciate.

How Excited Was I When I Finished? 6. Eh. It was a quick read?

Mary’s Rating: 6. I liked Serle’s creative twist on the retelling, but I didn’t love the main character, which in this case, amounted to a serious flaw in my enjoyment of the story.

Book Jacket: 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….

Review: This book transports the story of Romeo and Juliet to the present day AND tells the story from Rosaline’s point of view. I loved the idea of elevating a minor character from a classic story, and I thought the book was well-written. What I did not love was Rosaline herself. Just look at the title: When You Were Mine. It’s rather weepy, no? She spends far too much of the book mooning over her almost-boyfriend. In fairness to “Rosie,” if Romeo was this charming, maybe he was worth it. But I don’t have much respect for charming boys who fall for manipulative girls, so he lost me halfway through. Juliet herself was not at all sympathetic, which was good and bad. It was kind of a cop-out – I knew exactly who I was supposed to be rooting for. On the other hand, it meant that when Rosie didn’t end up with Rob, it was because she was meant to be with someone else. There was a clear choice just because they were so different.

There were fun subplots, but some of those threads were dropped. Like Rosie’s job working backstage for the school play. So much opportunity for fun high school drama lost. All we got were conversations that happened to take place while Rosie and her newly rediscovered friend Len happened to be standing near theater lights.

Serle did a really great job drawing out the supporting characters. Arguably too good of a job, in that I found myself wishing I was reading a story about Rosie’s awesome best friend Charlie rather than the book in front of me! Also, Charlie is an awesome name for a girl. As her character explains, her mom “said she thought that if I could pull it off, I’d be something spectacular.”
So true!

Unresolved (or resolved!) Sexual Tension: Good! And realistic. I liked that the characters were having real conversations about real teen issues. Namely sex. Also Len was adorable. I loved his long-sleeves. I was actually sad when he took them off, even though I love a not-so-subtle symbolic costume change of moving forwards!

Re-readability: 8. Higher than my actual rating. Weird, right? But there are clever elements to this story that I really liked. Charlie thinks everyone has a “7,” a thing that makes them unique. She calls it a seven because that’s the lowest prime number. Get it? Clever! [Edited to add: my sister tells me this is 2... hmmmm] And then I spent time deciding what my 7 was… a rereading might be enjoyable because I’d be able to focus more on Charlie’s quirks and less on Rosie’s romantic problems, which didn’t really capture my attention.

Recommended for: Fans of retellings and adaptations. If those drive you nuts, stay far away! If you like a modern day Jane Austen (Epic Fail anyone? Review coming soon!) then you might be able to get behind this. Also romantics. If you agree with Nicole Maris and think that high school love is for saps, stay far away too!

If you do not know who Nicole Maris is, run your mouse over to Netflix instant and spend the next ninety-one minutes watching Drive Me Crazy. You’re welcome.