Note: I'm uploading my books from Goodreads and since there are like 200+ it's going to take awhile. The uploading seems a bit wonky too, so hang with me as I fix things. Also there may be spoilers until I can make all the appropriate tags.
I'm an ex-English Major who, sick of reading classics after college, decided to read all the trashy books I didn't before because I was too snobby. Since graduating, I've entertained myself with comics, YA, and romance novels, finding out they can not only be decently written, but superbly written. I've since recovered from my classics aversion, but I'm now more open-minded reader willing to read from any genre. If a book has kick-ass heroines and/or witty banter and/or takes place in a different time or place (including fantasy settings), I will most likely fall in love with it. My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Meljean Brook, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hartman, Catherynne M. Valente, and Aliette de Bodard.
1 out of 5 Stars
Mimi Wallingford is destined to be an actress…against her will. . Mimi would prefer to be a doctor, but her overbearing mother won’t hear of it. She’s stuck performing in Romeo and Juliet with teen heartthrob Troy Summers until she and Troy are magically transported to Shakespeare’s Verona. There Mimi meets the real Juliet and realizes they both have more in common than she realized.
I studied Shakespeare in college and even did an independent study on the guy. I probably re-read Much Ado About Nothing at least once a year and I always discover something new. So needless to say, I’m a fan. I love Romeo and Juliet and I think the play is unfairly maligned. I was hoping this book would explore the beauty and depth often ignored and shed new light on the play, but alas that wasn’t to be. Selfors manages to make rounded Shakespearean characters shallow and flat and many of the characters are inconsistent with their Shakespearean counterparts. Juliet in the play is an incredibly mature and clear-sighted, while this Juliet is immature and foolish. In the play, Benvolio is the peace-maker and voice of reason; in this book, he’s a hot-headed creepy womanizing rapist (seriously WTF? DO NOT INSULT MY SHAKESPEARE BF!)
Yes, I have a Shakespeare boyfriend. Don't judge.
The research is incredibly poor (she keeps mentioning codpieces when they were out of fashion by 1590 – and this story takes place in 1594) and makes me question if she read the play (at one point she states that Tybalt was killed at the end of the play, when he was killed in Act III, Scene I – right smack in the middle of the play). The characters speak in modern English slang (‘totally’ is used every other word), but why the do so is never explained satisfactorily.
I understand the obsession with codpieces and tights. Truly I do.
In fact, Juliet is hardly in the book. The book, despite the title, mostly focuses on Mimi. Mimi facilitates from being a fairly vacuous fill-in heroine to completely annoying and judgmental. The rest of the modern day characters aren’t much better. They’re just as shallow as Selfor’s Shakespearean characters. Do I need to mention the flamboyant Hispanic who speaks in broken English who is Mimi’s make-up artist? Yeah, the characterization is THAT BAD.
The tone is confusing. There is a lot of immature humor befitting 11-12-year-old tween, but Mimi obsesses constantly over her virginity and at one point checks out Troy adjusting his junk, which feels more in line with a 16+ audience. It doesn’t help that Mimi is narrating the story from the future. She’ll randomly say things like ‘I should tell you what it looked like’ or ‘this is what happened next’ at the most inappropriate times. Besides being really clunky, it interrupted the flow of the story.
What upset me most about this book was the attempted rape by Benvolio.
Benvolio is a gentleman. He respects the laydeez.
I was a little peeved that my favorite character in R&J was being maligned, but this could have been a warning about how even nice guys and people you know and trust can rape. However, since Benvolio is first characterized as a romantic hero, then possessive, and then a womanizer – aka “a bad man” – the take away was only ‘bad evil people rape, not heroes!’
Pictured: NOT Benvolio. And as a Pittsburgher, the title makes me laugh.
The attempted rape isn’t exceptionally graphic, but there are enough details to make it disturbing and it would be emotionally scarring for Mimi to say the least. Mimi does have feelings of shame and distrust immediately afterwards, but a minute later she’s falling into Troy’s arms. NO. NO. NO. It felt like the teenage version of the magical healing peen. Not even hours later, Mimi’s referring to her experience flippantly. ‘Oh yeah, you know that time I was almost raped. Blah blah.’ You do not have an experience as horrendous as rape, even if it wasn’t completed, and just hand wave it away like it’s nothing.
I did like how Romeo’s emotional honesty was painted as a positive thing. It’s the only thing that made me look at a character differently.
This blew my MIND.
But the author had to mess that up by stating that Romeo had depression. Sighing over a girl because she doesn’t like you is not depression. Depression isn’t magically healed when you fall in love, as Romeo’s “depression” is when he meets Juliet. If falling in love was the cure to depression, I think modern psychology would be jumping on that STAT.
The characters were shallow and the craft was very amateur. Saving Juliet was at best uninteresting and uninspired, and at worst downright offensive. With such a rich well to draw from as a Shakespearean play, this book didn’t even try to skim the surface. It’s forgettable and not worth your time.