I love retellings. Especially, I love it when an author takes a book/play/poem and spins it so that it is totally different from the original. This was the case with WHEN YOU WERE MINE by Rebecca Serle, a retelling of Romeo & Juliet - from the perspective of Romeo's ex-girlfriend, Rosaline. She was a character in the Shakespeare play, but is only ever mentioned, never shown. However in Serle's contemporary YA version, modern day Californian teenager Rosie is the starring role, along with her best friend-to-boyfriend Rob (Romeo) and her scheming cousin Juliet. Slightly weird for me to read, though, considering my parents are called Rosie and Rob *cringe*!
Here's the Goodreads summary:
In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale.
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…
Things I loved about WYWM:
- Rosie's friends. Charlie and Olivia, her two best friends, were very real, really 3D characters with their own character traits, personalities, hopes, fears, crushes, and everything you don't see often enough in secondary characters in YA.
- Rob/Romeo. He felt real, and his relationship with Rosie was great. Serle was also good about making the reader fall for him in the beginning, which made it sadder when him and Juliet got together.
- The setting. I read most of this watching the rain sluice down the window here in grey, depressing England, so reading about sunny San Belarino (I think, haven't got the book with me atm) made me happy. It also made me want to live in the US. High school sounds so much more awesome than boring secondary school. Pep rallies, American football games, hot jocks, optional classes like creative writing....
- Len. I didn't like him to start with, but he really grew on me. And he wasn't all piercing green eyes and hulking muscles, either, which made a refreshing change.
Things I didn't love about WYWM:
- Constant reminiscing. I liked the way Serle wove in the characters' past, but when every second sentence was a memory, it grated a bit. Okay, Rosie and Rob were friends for ages. We get it.
- Juliet wasn't very well developed. And no, I'm not being pervy, I mean in the character sense. She came in, was b*tchy, got Rob, etc. Although I did like how she wasn't portrayed as that lovely and tragic. She was portrayed just how I'd imagined Shakespeare's Juliet.
- The ending. Without wanting to give anything away, the ending was a bit rubbish. I wanted wham bam thrilling death pact, or something that makes me gasp, like the original Shakespeare ending. All that suspense leading up to the ineviteable ending, and then...meh.
But overall, unlike plenty of reviewers on Goodreads, I really enjoyed When You Were Mine. Well worth a read, and definitely pick it up.
What do you think of retellings? Any you read that you think were totally untrue to the characters/plot, or any that you actually prefer to the original? And is it me or is the UK cover (above) much less boring and samey than the US one?