Book Review: When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

“For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet & her Romeo” … until now, that is. Because the tale of Romeo & Rosaline is full of far more woe — as proven by When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle, a modernized re-imagining of Romeo & Juliet told from the perspective of Rosaline, the girl Romeo dumped when he met Juliet.

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 …

I was never a huge fan of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, mostly because I just couldn’t buy into the whole fatal romance bit. It didn’t help that Romeo & Juliet were basically still kids, and they hardly knew each other. I just didn’t believe it. Their actions were so melodramatic, that I couldn’t be saddened by the tragedy of their deaths. I just thought their actions were stupid and immature!

But with When You Were Mine, Serle gives a modern twist to the doomed romance and offers a refreshing perspective on the story that is far more intriguing. Perspective really is everything, and Serle proves that in aces and spades by telling her version of Romeo & Juliet from Rosaline’s side. Things are going well for Rosaline as she starts her senior year of high school, especially when sparks start flying with her childhood BFF Rob. But just as it seems their romance is finally getting started, her estranged cousin Juliet moves back into town and Rob falls head over heels. Then there’s some hush-hush drama going on between her family, Rob’s family, and Juliet’s family — and nobody seems willing to tell Rose what’s really going on.

But Rose is also determined not to sit around and mope about her lost love. She’s going to get on with her life. And things start to brighten when she strikes up an unlikely friendship with her school’s social outcast Len. Except her past with Rob is never far in the shadows, and her inability to let go could cost her.

Serle brilliantly weaves a modern tale based on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved stories. At times, her characters — living comfortable lives in a wealthy community of southern California — can seem a bit one dimensional and privileged. But for the most part, they’re just teens dealing with issues any teen can relate to: relationships, family drama, grades, college, the Big Undefined Future. Serle shows us why Shakespeare’s work is still so revered today: because his stories are universal.

But maybe she shows the Bard up just a little bit, too, because I found her perspective on the Romeo & Juliet tale far more compelling. Seeing Rosaline’s side of the story, and how she deals with every new twist and the fallout of each choice, is what makes When You Were Mine so compelling.

When You Were Mine is in stores tomorrow.

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One response to “Book Review: When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

  1. I’ve heard very mixed things about this book. I will have to see for myself :)

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