When You Were Mine
by Rebecca Serle
Simon Pulse, 2013
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]
What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.
Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy…and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.
Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….
When You Were Mine has been on my to-read list for a really long time. I finally broke down and purchased a copy via Book Outlet, and then proceeded to ignore it for several more months. However, when May 1st rolled around, I decided it would be a great book to read for the #tbrdays challenge hosted by tea-books-lover over on Tumblr, and am really glad I finally decided to pick it up and actually read it. I loved that this was a retelling, but was told via an outsider point of view. The story we’re reading is Rose’s, but it showcases the story of “Romeo” (aka Rob) and Juliet, through the eyes of a teenager whose heart has been broken. I wasn’t sure going in if I’d enjoy the story or not – I’m not a fan of the original Romeo and Juliet at all – but am very happy to say that I did.
What I liked about this book was that it felt authentic. The characters are all in high school, so they’re not yet mature (even if they think they are). The whole “do I or don’t I love him” thing felt extremely realistic, particularly when the boy in question is your best friend and someone who knows you inside and out. I liked Rose’s initial reticence to get involved romantically with Rob because she didn’t want to mess up what they already had. And then, of course, it turns out that she was right to be cautious, when she pretty much immediately gets set aside in favor of Juliet. Her internal monologues about how she was feeling – betrayed, humiliated and hurt – were spot on and really made me feel for her. There were several times that I was reading that actually brought me to tears because I just FELT for her, and it was these moments that kept me reading; I basically devoured the last 85% of this book in almost one sitting.
I also absolutely adored Len, Rose’s sarcastic and yet extremely emotionally intelligent Biology lab parter. He’s introduced as the school bad boy, he’s quirky and witty and definite outcast material, and yet you know from the instant he’s introduced that he’s going to be important. I think Len was the perfect balance for Rose because he helped her figure things out, even though she got some of them wrong. He wasn’t perfect – he made mistakes, too – but he was there, and just what she needed. I loved how gentle and patient he was, while still being realistic and blunt when necessary. And the hidden aspects of his character that came out throughout the book just made him even more awesome. He’s definitely a favorite.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the amazing female friendships in this book. Rose has two other best friends, Charlie and Olivia, and while they were somewhat flighty and silly, that, too was realistic. I particularly liked Charlie, who’s a spitfire but also dealing with her own goings-on. She was a best friend I could get behind, and I loved that she was always there when Rose needed her. Girl power, for the win!
All in all, When You Were Mine was a really great read. It’s a retelling whose focus isn’t actually on the story it’s retelling, but it works because the story its portraying – and the depth of the characters and the emotions they’re dealing with – is compelling and intriguing, even if it isn’t necessarily new or unique. I’d recommend it not only because of the Rose, who turns out to be pretty awesome herself, but also because of the great cast of supporting characters who make Rose’s life worthwhile.