When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle [website | twitter]
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target Audience: Young adult
Keywords: Heart break, classic re-telling, debut novel
Format read: Paperback from ALA (thanks!)
Summary: Rosaline was Rob’s (Romeo’s) first love and best friend. Everything was working out perfectly for their senior year until Rosaline’s estranged cousin, Juliet, moves back to town. Juliet steals Rob away and we are given an inside glimpse to Rose’s life in this modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
After I finished Insurgent, I wanted something 180 degrees different. What better to pick up than a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story - except this time from the perspective of the girl Romeo (or Rob, in When You Were Mine) discarded, Rosaline? I have to admit I was a little unsure of how closely the story would follow Shakespeare’s masterpiece. I don’t want to get into the details of the ins and outs of what happens because you should experience the emotional roller coaster without any warnings from me. Please note that even if you aren’t familiar with Romeo & Juliet, you needn’t worry. This story can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys an epic, tragic love story.
Despite being familiar with the framework set up by Shakespeare, I allowed myself to hope that Serle had put a spin on this classic tale. I fell head over heels in love with Rob. I’ve admitted this in earlier reviews, but I am a sucker for stories that explore two best friends falling in love. Rosaline didn’t want to fracture the relationship she had with Rob, but ultimately, decided to follow her heart and allowed herself to fall for him. She had two female best friends, Charlie and Olivia, but there was something so pure about her friendship with Rob. Charlie and Olivia were a little silly and snobby, but they turned out to be the type of friend I aspire to be – encouraging when Rosaline was uncertain about Rob and protective when he broke her heart. I just couldn’t stop my heart from hoping that our Romeo would profess his love for Rosaline in spite of the spell he succumbs to when Juliet makes her appearance.
Juliet is Rose’s estranged cousin. Family drama to the max. Rose, Juliet, and Rob used to be best friends before Juliet’s family moved away. Rose is in utter darkness about why her cousin wants nothing to do with her when she returns. I had to chalk up the secrecy and Rose’s naiveté regarding the family tension to her young, unquestioning self when everything happened ten years prior. Juliet appeared after my heart had already fluttered happily for Rob; she was a little late to the game, but man, did she make an impact when she was introduced to the story. When Juliet hypnotized (figuratively, not literally) Rob, I felt like things happened so abruptly and the story began to progress much more rapidly. Serle set up the perfect scene for every romantic’s heart and then BAM, crushed it. I wept tears of sadness for Rose.
Just as you’ll remember from high school English study of Romeo and Juliet, When You Were Mine is filled with lots of:
- family drama
Amidst the black hole that is Rose’s extended family, there is a beacon of light: Len. He’s a facetious but goofy guy. He’s given the cold shoulder by Rose and her circle of popular friends because he appears so unmotivated and detached from high school life. Rose feels as if the whole world is against her when her (terrible) bio teacher pairs her with Len. I was completely taken aback by the friendship that developed slowly and beautifully and delicately between these two unlikely characters. I was often caught off guard by Len’s insight and thoughtful observations.
Serle’s writing was incredibly engaging, and I was fully invested in the story almost instantaneously and couldn’t stop reading. When You Were Mine is a wonderful debut novel that Rebecca Serle should certainly be proud of. My only complaint is that I was left wishing for more – I wasn’t ready for Rosaline’s story to be over when I closed the book.
(Take this one with you to the beach this summer; it’s the perfect companion for drinks with umbrellas and a lazy afternoon in the sun.)