Friday, August 12, 2011

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

Title: Juliet Immortal
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Pages: 306 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Amazon Vine-provided ARC

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, who made the sacrifice  to ensure his own immortality. But Romeo didn't anticipate that Juliet would be granted eternity as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light.
 
For seven hundred years, Juliet has struggled to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent, while Romeo has fought for the dark side, seeking to destroy the human heart. Until now.
 
Now Juliet has found her own forbidden love, and Romeo, O Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy their happiness.
 
Secrets unfold and surprises abound in Stacey Jay's dark romance, which reunites literature's most tragic couple.

Review:

Readers, I face a conundrum. On one hand, Juliet Immortal has its merits and I recognize that they're there. On the other hand, I still did not enjoy this book because of the problems I had with it. I try to rate books objectively, but this is one book I am rating more on how I enjoyed it than its objective quality.

Let's see if I can pin this down right. If you:
  • like melodrama and angst;
  • are of the mind that Romeo and Juliet was a love story and not a tragedy or satire on teen love;
  • or like forbidden romance (of which this book contains multiple cases of, each one a different kind),
Then this is your book. If you dislike any of the listed, this may not be your book. Now then, let's do a little in-depth exploration of this book and why thinking about it introduces an urge to bang my head on the keyboard.

For centuries since Romeo sacrificed her to become immortal, Juliet has battled her former love to preserve the souls of other soul mates and prevent them from suffering the same fate she did. This time around, Juliet's host body is a quiet, scarred girl named Ariel and though she's not supposed to, she's falling in love with Ben Luna, a complicated young man... and one of the soul mates she was sent to protect. When Romeo discovers this, he will do anything to destroy the first happiness Juliet has experience in nearly seven hundred years.

We'll start with what I did like. Characters are usually blind to their own flaws and have to be called out on them by other people, if ever. Juliet makes smarter choices this time around, even if it take a few centuries to figure out what she did wrong, and recognizes her own flaws. Then when she called Romeo out for his behavior when they were alive (for the record, the play is an exact description of how their relationship went except for a small variation in how the play ended and how it "really" ended) and I wanted to scream, "Hallelujah!" I didn't like Romeo in the play and seeing everything I've ever thought of him taken out of my mouth by Juliet was great.

I didn't always like Juliet as a person, but I will grudgingly admit that she is a good heroine and character. The evolution of her character is done well, being a little wiser than she was in the play, flawed, and very interesting. She even has a good relationship with her (technically Ariel's, but you know what I mean) mother this time around! Better relationships with parents in YA books is something we need more of.

While I don't like present tense writing much, it worked with this story and the writing was good, if not poetic at times. I thought about quoting some passages I thought were really good, but there's the whole "don't quote ARCs" thing and then I wouldn't know what to quote. So many choices, so little time! What had to be my favorite part was that good was not good in this book, more like a shade of gray than white-as-fresh-snow white. People often overlook that even good does some atrocious things in the name of defeating evil. They aren't above lying, manipulation, and letting people die because it suits their purposes or they don't think that person is important. This was the strongest point of Juliet Immortal for me.

And now we move on to what I didn't like. Oh, goodness, this is going to be a long one.

Romeo and Juliet are presented as soul mates, like it's just as much a fact as the sky being blue and my fingernails currently being painted a Pepto Bismol shade of pink (which they are). I hold the opinion they were just two infatuated teenagers and that their play was not a love story, so I'm not much for them being presented as soul mates. If their courtship goes virtually the same way as it does in the play, I don't have any reason to believe these two were any more in love here than they were in the play. If it's already been stated that part of Shakespare's play was a lie, why not make more than just the ending and the presence of the Mercenaries/Ambassadors a lie?

Juliet and Ben's relationship is nearly as instant and just as unbelievable as the eponymous couple's in Romeo and Juliet, and this could be a sore point indeed for people who feel the same way about the play as I do, though I will hand it to those two that they made smarter decisions this time around. 

There's all sorts of melodramatic drama going down, especially involving the love triangles (because we have MULTIPLES OF THEM, people, MULTIPLES). Juliet has a genuine conflict concerning Ben and Gemma, but that triangle still manages to be entirely too melodramatic. We also have angsting of "I can't be with him because he's supposed to be with her!" and such and I just wanted it all to go away because I was more interested on what Mercenaries and Ambassadors did, but we never got to see either side at work. We're told that the Mercenaries try to tempt one soul mate into sacrificing the other and then the Ambassador tries to bring the soul mates together, but neither side was doing their job very well.

(Also, small nitpick, but wouldn't someone's glowing aura be more visible in the dark, not less visible? It seems like a small flub, but not being able to see a certain person's glowing aura because Juliet only saw them in the dark made a pretty big difference.)

Maybe it's because I'm my heart is made of stone and cold like the frozen-solid water bottles in the refrigerator, but I didn't find Romeo sympathetic or likable in either the play or this book. Here, he's not just off his rocker; he's off his rocker's rocker. He has killed multiple people for nothing more than being in his way, killed his own soul mate Juliet, and is generally a terrible person despite his misguided motivations. I believed his suffering was just karma taking a big bite of out him. <nitpick>When a guy acts like a woman has to summon the goodness inside him and make him a good person, that's pretty much the point of no return for me. It is never the woman's job to fix a man and make him a good person or vice versa. If they really want to be with that person, they will better themselves on their own and make themselves worthy.</nitpick>

And that's exactly how I liked his character. He's not being evil for the sake of being evil, but he was evil nonetheless and that was great. What I didn't like was how the book was trying to redeem him for his actions when I felt that he deserved no redemption for all he's done (and I've left out a few things because I don't want to give too much away). 

The ending left me... Is there a nice way to say this? No, I think not. The ending pissed me off and made me want to scream (the bad kind of scream). A sudden revelation at the end feels out-of-place with the rest of the book and seems like it's there only to provide a happy ending just when you think it's going to be something other than the happily-ever-after ending. As for how it leaves Romeo? Don't make me talk about it. Considering my above-mentioned feelings about Romeo's character and the attempts to redeem him and make him sympathetic when it doesn't work, how the ending leaves him and the implications made me angrier than anything else.

This was such a depressing review to write. I was excited about this book from the moment I heard about it. I thought maybe, just maybe, it would go like "Juliet realizes she was never in love with Romeo and he tricked her, so she fights him to avenge herself." The description certainly made it sound like it could go that way. Now that I've actually read it, I'm just disappointed. 

I'll stress this with capital letters: FOR ONCE, IGNORE MY OPINION AND TRY IT OUT FOR YOURSELF IF YOU'RE REALLY CURIOUS. I wrote this review for cathartic reasons and to sort out how I felt. This review isn't the most objective or helpful because my quality-vs-enjoyment dilemma led to a lower rating than it may have deserved and I don't really want anyone to use this unreliable, very strange review to decide whether or not to get the book. It would be a shame if someone did and avoided a book they would have loved just because I was being a weirdy with my review.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

2 comments:

  1. Is Paris even mentioned in the story?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Paris? Not that I remember. He plays no role in this book.

    ReplyDelete

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