Book Review: I am Juliet by Jackie French

Thursday, June 19, 2014
I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: I am Juliet
Author: Jackie French
Series: The first book in a series, with Ophelia, Queen of Denmark due out in 2015, and Third Witch due out in 2016.
Publication Date: Due out July 1st 2014

Synopsis: "Everyone knows the story of Juliet Capulet and her love for Romeo. The star-crossed lovers from the warring Capulet and Montague families of Verona whose love was doomed. But who was this girl Juliet?
Who am I? Only a daughter? A Capulet, wed to my father's choice? No! I am the girl who chose her destiny, whose love outlasts the sun.
I am Juliet."

My thoughts: This book is short, but haunting. I never studied Romeo and Juliet in high school, but I am quite familiar with it because of multiple movie adaptations and written versions that I have consumed during my life. I feel like many people are familiar with the play for that very reason.
I was excited by the prospect of having another Jackie French book in my hands, and fascinated that she had chosen to take on such a well-known character when I first got my hands on this. And Jackie French did not disappoint.
The book may be short, but it really gives life to Juliet's thoughts and version of things and, while it is still rather difficult to believe in the speed of Romeo and Juliet's relationship (from love, to marriage, to death), French gives Juliet the voice of someone desperately wanting to choose her own fate, rather than bowing to the will of her father's choice - as was traditional at the time.
I really loved how Shakespeare's words were woven into the book, whilst also remaining accessible to those that may not be overly familiar with Shakespearean expression. Every now and then you would get a touch of Shakespeare's romantic language, only to be pushed up and supported by French's own way with words - the way she writes is really quite beautiful and complements the use of lines from the play very well.
I have to admit that I did find this a bit dull at times. But I think that's the risk that French runs with tackling such an old and well-known play and trying to make it readable for younger individuals studying it in school - sometimes the intent of the character's just didn't translate well and was a bit difficult to understand with a modern-day mindset. I think this may be a reflection of my love for fiery female characters, though, and it took a little while for Juliet to discover her inner fire and make her choice.

The book opens with a young man studying the play to prepare for his role as Juliet - the first time the play is going to be put on. He is lamenting the fact that he has been cast as a 13-year-old girl again, and imagining being booed off the stage - or worse, running away from sharp oyster shells being thrown at him. To start with I was a bit confused as to why French had put this in, but it actually brings the story together really very well - it links the play with Juliet herself (who may or may not have existed originally) and keeps the narrative flowing into the future. (I think you'll understand what I mean there if you read the book.)

The story itself is actually only about 170 pages long, with the last 30 pages or so dedicated to French's thoughts on the story, and also some history surrounding the time Shakespeare's play was actually written. I found this really fascinating and wonderful to read - I love getting background to old stories, but that may just be the English Literature student in me (she hardly ever gets a chance to play). I think this book would make an excellent companion novel to the play for those still studying it in school - it gives more scope for relating to the characters and seeing their drive. While I love that French has given Juliet a voice and given us some insight into her character, I would also love to see something like this done for Romeo, too.

I received a copy of this book for review from HarperCollins.

You would like this book if: You like Romeo and Juliet and would love to see the tale from a different perspective.

Rating:  8/10

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