Initially my interest was piqued by the new take on Romeo and Juliet - a modern adaptation from the point of view of Rosaline, the girl Romeo was desperately in love with until the moment he spotted Juliet. Having recently rewatched Romeo + Juliet and being put in an angsty teen mood, I decided to give When You Were Mine a go. But Rose was soon driving me nuts; she had basically no personality and depended upon her best friend, Charlie, to dictate her thoughts, feelings and actions. Every second line was, "Charlie says this" or "Charlie thinks that". Frustrated, I went looking for reviews to see what other people thought. While there were a fair few positive ones, what struck me were two quite negative, but thoughtful reviews by Emily May and Ashleigh Paige. I had a feeling I'd have the same reaction to the book as them, and came very, very close to DNFing.
I'm glad I stuck with it, because in the end I did like it - quite a lot, actually. While I think the criticisms that Emily, Ashleigh and others have made are valid, I thought that there was a good amount of growth over the course of the novel. Rob was a total dirtbag douchcanoe for ditching Rose the second her cousin Juliet comes to town, and while Rose still loved him, she did blame him as well as Juliet. Granted, Juliet got the brunt of the blame, but as Mandee points out, the slut-shaming aspect of this, though not ideal, is certainly true to life. That is how teen girls - and indeed, many adult women - act towards a girl who "steals" their guy. That doesn't mean the author endorses this behaviour as positive. It is simply true to life. I think what really helped was the way Juliet was given more layers and agency. I felt for her in the end, along with Rosaline. I still hated Rob, but I was sad about what happened. It's not spoiling anything to say this has a sad ending - it is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet after all. I really liked the way Serle developed the tragic aspect of the story, and gave it a unique spin while maintaining an emotional punch.
Although When You Were Mine is heartbreaking at times, it does have quite a few lighthearted moments. The humour came primarily from Rose's friends, Charlie and Olivia. OK, so Charlie was a cow at times, and said some pretty awful things, but she was fiercely protective of Rose and not just a one-dimensional mean girl. Olivia was totally like Karen from Mean Girls, as Mandee mentions, which provided some entertaining moments. Then there was Len, the lovely, funny nerd who saw the real Rose and encouraged her to be herself and stand up for herself. He was very cute and a nice foil for the knobsticle Rob.
I don't think this book is for everyone, but I enjoyed it and found it to be a refreshing take on a done-to-death (no pun intended) story.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Coz I watch way too much trashy teen drama:
|Ashley Benson as Juliet|
|Penn Badgley as Len|
|Tyler Posey as Rob|
|Lucy Hale as Rosaline|
Published: April 2012, Simon & Schuster
Get It: Fishpond