Thursday, December 6, 2012

Juliet Immortal - Stacey Jay

Title: Juliet Immortal
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Ember (Random House), 2012 (Paperback)
Length: 306 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: December 1, 2012
Finished: December 6, 2012

From the back of the book:

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the one person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, who made the sacrifice to ensure his own immortality. But Romeo didn't anticipate that Juliet would be granted eternal life as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light.

For seven hundred years, Juliet has struggled to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent, while Romeo has fought for the dark side, seeking to destroy the human heart. Until now.

Now Juliet has found forbidden love, and Romeo, O Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy their happiness.

After reading the summary of the book I knew I had to read it. I'm a high school English teacher, and Romeo and Juliet is the Shakespeare play our Grade 11s read; so when I saw a book about the idea that the typical Romeo and Juliet story is a complete lie and said book actually pulled it off, I fell in love.

The premise here is that the Romeo and Juliet story we all know is mostly true up to a point. Romeo went to the dark side (the Mercenaries) and killed Juliet in exchange for immortal life, but at the moment of her death Juliet is given a chance to work for the good side (the Ambassadors) and is granted the same deal. Both are reincarnated every few generations; Juliet tries to save the lives of a pair of soul mates, and Romeo tries to get one to kill the other in the name of love.

In present day Southern California, Juliet now occupies the body of Ariel Dragland and tries to not only fix her life to a certain degree but also to make sure soulmates Gemma and Ben stay together and don't die at the hands of Romeo. But things get complicated when Ben falls in love with Ariel/Juliet and she begins to question the purpose of all she's doing.

Aside from the unique take on the typical Romeo and Juliet story, I really enjoyed Juliet's character and how the story really is a homage to true love and personal growth and acceptance. Juliet at first is angry and bitter (not to mention kick-ass) because she fell head over heels for Romeo and he screwed her over, and really, who hasn't felt that way about love at some point in their lives? Over the course of the novel, she begins to believe in love again and starts to forgive herself for the mistakes she made as a naive 14-year-old girl. The love she shares with Ben is on more equal footing and based on mutual respect, which is a good example for readers.

I loved the side-story with Ariel's life and the players in it, and especially how her mother is a realistic portrayal of a parent in YA fiction, flawed yet well-intentioned and fiercely loves her daughter. Romeo is actually well-developed and not simply an evil villain, I actually felt sorry for the poor boy at one point. Ben was lovely but I think he could've used some more time in the spotlight. Also, having the students perform West Side Story was a great piece of brilliance on the author's part.

A surprisingly enjoyable read, very unique premise with great characters and themes. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel, Romeo Redeemed, at some point.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love it, the Juliet model in the red flowing dress on a rock by the ocean just fits together so well and doesn't fall into the trap of typical YA covers (close-up of a girl's face and nothing else).

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