Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Juliet Immortal Book Review

Author: Stacey Jay. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780385740166.

Annotation:  Everyone knows her story – Juliet Capulet falls in love with Romeo Montague and the two are married, only to have things end tragically in suicide. What everyone doesn’t know is that this story is a lie.        
Personal thoughts:  I really like the concept of making Romeo and Juliet enemies, so I was very enthusiastic about reading this novel. I have to say that my enjoyment of it didn’t really live up to my expectations, although it was an interesting novel. I got a little lost in all of the fantasy/mythology of the Mercenaries and Ambassadors, and that really got in the way of the feud between the two “lovers” for me. I hope that Jay improves upon this in the second novel.
 Plot summary: The tragic story of Romeo and Juliet has been known for centuries as the ultimate romance. Romeo and Juliet, born to rivaling families, fall in love, only to have their short marriage abruptly end in a double suicide. What is not known is that this story is a lie. Juliet Capulet did not commit suicide to be with her Romeo. Romeo murdered Juliet in cold blood, sacrificing his true love to become a member of the Mercenaries, a dark group of immortals who seek to keep soul mates apart. What Romeo doesn’t expect is for Juliet to become an Ambassador of Light, beings who work to bring soul mates together, keeping them out of the clutches of the Mercenaries. Now, for seven hundred years, Juliet inhabits the bodies of the living, ensuring that no one else falls victim to the fate she endured at the hands of her “true love.” Romeo is relentless in his quest to destroy Juliet once and for all, and when the two emerge in the bodies of Ariel and Dylan, high school seniors in Solvang, California, it seems that Juliet will have one last chance to rid the world of Romeo once and for all. Determined to put an end to their eternal battle, Juliet is not prepared when she meets Ben, a kind and handsome boy at her high school who seems to see beyond her borrowed exterior into her true soul.
Review: Veteran teen author Stacey Jay brings a new take to the timeless Shakespeare tale in Juliet Immortal. Arguably the most interesting part of the novel is the premise: Romeo and Juliet was a fabrication, Romeo actually killed Juliet and the two have spent centuries battling it out on opposites sides in the war of love. The concept of the two inhabiting bodies is also interesting, though not explained thoroughly (Romeo can inhabit dead flesh, but Juliet can only borrow bodies of the living, tapping into the person’s memories to behave as they would.) Also somewhat convoluted is the whole purpose of their eternal battle and the mysterious Mercenaries and Ambassadors that employ them. It seems that Romeo wants to cause soul mates to murder one another, while Juliet wants to ensure they fall in love completely, thus keeping them out of the clutches of the Mercenaries. How this works, exactly, seems to change throughout the novel, making for a somewhat confusing storyline. There are positives, however, that do make up for the shortcomings in the plot. Juliet is an engaging lead character and Romeo is an intriguing antagonist. Ben, Juliet’s earthly love interest, is very likable, and his role in the story proves to be the most interesting. Since Juliet Immortal is the first novel in a two-part series, Jay will hopefully expand upon the plot from the first book, giving the reader a better idea of what exactly is going on. The potential in the series is large enough to warrant reading this novel, and giving the second one a try as well.
Genre: Romance/Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini.  
Themes:  Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, betrayal, love, soul mates.      
Awards/Reviews:  N/A
Series Information: First novel in two-part series.    
Discussion questions: 
- Have you read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? If so, do you like Stacey Jay’s use of the characters in her novel?
- Do you believe in soul mates? Why or why not?
- What do you think is the purpose of the Mercenaries? The Ambassadors?
- Why do you think Ariel and her mother have such a strained relationship?
-  Do you think Gemma is a good friend? Have you ever had a friend like Gemma?
- Can you think of some other alternate versions of Romeo and Juliet that you would like to see made into a novel?

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