Juliet Immortal, Book 1
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Description from Goodreads:
Fans of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver and Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush will relish this intense paranormal love story featuring Romeo and Juliet, literary history's most tragic couple, who meet again, not as true lovers, but truly as enemies.
The most tragic love story in history . . .
Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.
"These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume."
—Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
First Sentence: "Tonight, he could have come through the door—the castello is quiet, even the servants asleep in their beds, and Nurse would have let him in—but he chooses the window, climbing through the tangle of night flowers, carrying petals in on his clothes."
In all honesty, I really didn't expect to like this. Romeo and Juliet was not my favorite play to begin with, and, because of its ubiquitousness, I've grown rather to loathe it. While I general hunt down retellings like Jaws hunts down the people of Amity, I make an exception for Romeo and Juliet most of the time. To my pleasant surprise though, I really, really was impressed with Juliet Immortal and am thrilled that I have a copy of the sequel Romeo Redeemed ready to go.
Stacey Jay made Romeo and Juliet palatable characters by completely changing things up. In this version, it turns out Romeo is totally willing to turn homicidal on Juliet in exchange for eternal life, given him by forces of evil known as the Mercenaries. Juliet, thanks to last minute intervention from Nurse, gets eternal life as well, signing on to work for the Ambassadors, the forces of light. I acknowledge that this all sounds patently ridiculous, but it's fantasy, so just take my word for it that, by and large, this paranormal plot line worked quite well for me.
Most of the narration (minus three chapters/intermezzos) is Juliet's first person perspective. Her work for the Ambassadors entails taking over another person's body, chosen seemingly at random. From this vantage point, her goal is to find a pair of lovers and make sure they reach true love, rather than one of them being recruited into the evil/eternal life scheme as happened with Romeo. While in another person's body, Juliet must avoid changing their life over much, but does try to improve things, which reminded me rather strongly of Mercy by Rebecca Lim.
Jay's writing and concept were phenomenal, and I was never bored. However, I did have some problems with the book. The main one is Juliet's gullibility. She's depicted as this strong, determined character, who has wised up from all of the horrible things Romeo has put her through. Though she supposedly works in pursuit of true love, she doesn't really believe in it anymore, and really just hopes for a chance to revenge herself on Romeo. All of that = fantastic.
Unfortunately, Juliet, it seems, hasn't learned much of anything. She immediately instaloves with someone else, Ben, the guy who saves her from Romeo that first night. Good lord, girl! Didn't you learn the first time that it doesn't hurt to take some time and not rush into things? It's hard to believe she's got her emotional walls up, if she instaloves so easily. She doesn't even fight it very hard. Heck, the true lovers she's sent to help fight their love more than she does, for all her wordy protestations.
I just wish she had been that way in all of her life, been a bit more questioning of love the second time around. That's just not who she is, though, I guess. On an unrelated note, can we stop with the whole "I'm writing a retelling of this play set in high school, so I'll totally have the school perform this play!" thing. Yes, that was once a clever gambit, but that ship has sailed, dear authors. It has been done enough; try something new. Note: SHS doesn't actually perform Romeo and Juliet; they perform West Side Story, which is almost worse.
Favorite Quote: "There is school and the misery of being a person unseen, the jealousy that I can't be wild and beautiful like Gemma, that I am always an audience, never a player."