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The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

Dear Suzanne Harper:

Thank you for a few hours of complete escape from the humdrum world of southern New Jersey where I live. I very much enjoyed spending a few hours watching teenagers and adults alike fall in love with unlikely others, reading the letters sent by lovelorn people the world over to Juliet and the advice that is returned their way, and enjoying armchair travel to Verona, Italy, all the while reading a novel that can only be described as an extended love letter to William Shakespeare.

The story that you crafted borrows nicely from Shakespeare, incorporating elements from various of his plays whilst quoting from Romeo & Juliet, Henry V, Twelfth Night and Two Gentlemen of Verona, and also referencing A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, possibly Love's Labours Lost and a small dose of Taming of the Shrew and at least one of Shakespeare's sonnets.

I very much enjoyed that Kate's two best girlfriends at home placed a wager on whether she'd fall in love while in Italy, and that Silvia and Benno (two of the three Italian teens in the book) conspired to toy with Kate and Giacamo. While Kate, overhearing their plot, characterizes them as trying to pull a "Benedick and Beatrice" (a reference to Much Ado About Nothing), that device (or a similar one) is used to great effect by Shakespeare in other plays as well, including As You Like It and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I like also Benno's struggle to determine whether to win Lucy for himself or help her win Tom's affection, and I love poor jock Tom's agony over the scholarship and dancing that his summer program involves, as well as his growing affection for the waspish Silvia.

At the end of the story, which ends just as both a Shakespearian comedy and a romance novel ought, I couldn't help but be captivated by the argument presented throughout the book, in words and in the actions of the characters, that one must not only read Shakespeare as an intellectual exercise; one must breathe life into the words when possible, and allow one's emotions to become fully involved. What a delightful marriage of head and heart

Thank you also for cluing me in to the existence of an actual Juliet Club, which does use volunteers to field letters to Juliet.

Kelly Fineman

P.S. To my other readers: I offer two minor criticisms: The cover is mildly misleading, since it makes it appear to be a historical fiction novel whereas it is a contemporary romance. Don't get me wrong - I like the cover. I'm just saying that it doesn't exactly advertise its innards very well. As a second point, the third-person point of view manages to swing around quite a bit, usually without much of a seam, but occasionally I found myself a wee bit distracted by the head-hopping.

Recommended escapist reading for middle school and up, and for kids interested in English literature and/or drama in particular, but excellent for anyone looking for a fun read (although really, this is mostly a "girl book").

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
Recommended escapist reading for middle school and up, and for kids interested in English literature and/or drama in particular, but excellent for anyone looking for a fun read (although really, this is mostly a "girl book").

I meet all the criteria!!!

Edited at 2009-01-26 09:30 pm (UTC)
Jan. 26th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
It was really a pleasant few hours of my time, and I really enjoyed spotting some of the references. I'm still fairly certain I missed a few, though.
Jan. 26th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
Sounds right up my ally!

One to watch in 09: EYES LIKE STARS

Theatre, Shakespeare faeries and more, oh my!
Jan. 26th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
I'll have to try this one again, I think -- great review :)

Oh, and you tied Mandy for second place in the contest :D
Jan. 27th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
Tied? How is that possible? :P
Jan. 26th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
check my post. =)
Jan. 27th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
I'll put it on my list! It sounds quite interesting and I love anything Shakespear:)Thanks for the review:)
Jan. 27th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
I'm a huge Shakespeare fan myself. And it was a very cute read!
Jun. 6th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sending me here. I think I'll get it for my romantic daughter, and maybe read it on the way.
Jun. 6th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
The paperback is in stores now, and has a much better cover (I think). The original, seen above, looks like it's a historical romance instead of contemporary fiction.

Edited at 2010-06-06 05:59 pm (UTC)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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