Published by HarperCollins on February 21st 2017
Pamela L. Laskin’s beautiful and lyrical novel in verse delivers a fresh and captivating retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to the modern-day Israel-Palestine conflict.
Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. Only miles apart but separated by generations of conflict—much more than just the concrete blockade between them. Their fathers, however, work in a distrusting but mutually beneficial business arrangement, a relationship that brings Ronit and Jamil together. And lightning strikes. The kind of lightning that transcends barrier fences, war, and hatred.
The teenage lovers fall desperately into the throes of forbidden love, one that would create an irreparable rift between their families if it were discovered. But a love this big can only be kept secret for so long. Ronit and Jamil must face the fateful choice to save their lives or their loves, as it may not be possible to save both.
I received this book for free from edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I will be the first to admit that poetry and I are not necessarily friends. I have never really read a book that is entirely in verse (except for like the Odyssey and a couple others for school). It’s something that I’ve been curious to try and something that always intrigued me. That said, I’m not sure this was the right book to start with.
There were some really good moments. There were a few passages that I really enjoyed and thought were pretty beautiful. They were what I would expect poetry to be. They invoked feelings and a sense of something other than what you were living (if that made any sense).
Beyond the good moments, there were a lot of issues for me. For one, it was REALLY hard to follow the story. It seemed like the poems/chapters alternated POV between Ronit & Jamil, but you never really knew whose poem was whose. The later parts had their names associated with the poems, so I’m not quite sure why that hadn’t happened in the earlier parts.
Another issue I had was that I had no clue about what was going on. It was supposed to be a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. There were times where you could pick up on the families not wanting them together, but that was it. I never really connected with the characters or even the characters connection with each other. It just never fell into place for me. It was hard to know what was going on and what the plot was. It just felt really basic and didn’t really hold much substance for me. Having read what I have in terms of a story being told with verse, I know it’s doable to have more substance and plot and connections.
I was also really curious to see a classic story told in a modern time area that I haven’t really read about (the Middle East). For me, this could have taken place really anywhere. The location could have been another character (in a sense) and it just never really happened.
Overall, this book did let me down. Had it not been such a quick read I probably would not have finished it. I can’t really say I would recommend it, but poetry is very much interpretive so if you enjoy poetry, then give it a try! You never know!