Friday, May 11, 2012

When You Were Mine, Rebecca Serle

Title: When You Were Mine
Author: Rebecca Serle (author website | blog)
Release Date: April 2012 by Simon & Schuster Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

It's no secret the greatest love story ever told is no love story. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy—a tale of bigotry, and murder; a story about a thirteen year old girl and a fickle, capricious boy, ending in suicide and tragedy for all. But what if it was wrong? Or not the whole story? Turns out… it’s every inch as heartbreaking, and if Rebecca Serle does one thing magnificently, it’s laying on the heartbreak. Grab your tissues and your comfort food, and prepare to fall in love... You know what comes next.

From Goodreads:
What if the greatest love story ever told was the wrong one?
Rosaline has been best friends with Rob since they were little kids. Recently, something deeper and more electric has entered their friendship, and when Rob returns after the summer break and asks Rosaline on a sort-of date, it seems they are destined to become a couple, just as Rosaline always knew they would be. The next day at school, a mysterious, beautiful girl arrives: Rosaline's long-lost cousin, Juliet. And suddenly it looks as if Rosaline might be about to lose her best friend AND her new boyfriend...

The Story:

Rosaline Caplet's final year in school should be perfect. And it is, for a time. When her best friend and next door neighbor, Rob Monteg returns from Summer break, things start to change between them. Despite reluctance to damage a cherished friendship, Rose follows her heart, and, when the two kiss, the stars align. Or so Rose thought. The next day, Rose's more or less estranged cousin, Juliet Caplet returns to town, and the day after that, Rob's love, his lips, even his friendship aren't Rose's anymore, no. They belong to Juliet. Because for Rob and Juliet, it was love at first sight, and like those star-crossed lovers with such similar names, so many years ago, it can't end well. As Rose struggles with her shattered heart, people start whispering of Juliet's instability. Will she take Rob with her when she falls? And will Rose get her own happily ever after?

My Thoughts:

Going into an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is challenging. Knowing the story can only end poorly, it’s difficult to let go of a certain reticence to become fully engaged. Yet it quickly becomes difficult to keep When You Were Mine from getting under your skin. With a charm uniquely its own, warm, vivid characters and sweet first love, it all comes together, feeling so, so right... Before it all goes so, so wrong.

Here's where, enter, stage left, comes our heroine, Rosaline Caplet. Sweet, quiet, and, well, ordinary. Rose is the perfect girl next door to Rob Caplet's Romeo. She has a simple kind of strength of character that shines through ‘ordinary’, making her engaging and easy to like. It's from Rose's outside point of view we watch her first love and best friend fall for another girl, and it's Rose who brings the tragedy home. Because it's not just the pain of two young, promising lives derailing so swiftly and violently. It's what comes before and what's left behind, and Rose feels it all with heart-wrenching intensity.

As I followed fair Rosaline’s journey, I longed for it to change, for Rose to curse the inauspicious stars, to fight their pull, and to choose her own adventure; to make things right in the world and to prove that fate isn’t sealed in the cold, cruel lights in the sky, It’s hard to trust the very wise Ms Serle when she says “No love story ends or begins out of accordance with how it needs to go[1],” but it’s well worth the risk. This is a book designed to make you feel, and oh, does it succeed. From the depths of grief and despair, to the soaring heights of creeping, hateful hope, Serle plays the heart strings with graceful perfection.

From the sweet, giddy breathlessness of first kisses, to the depths of despair, Serle doles out heartache, heartbreak, and emotional intensity with a calm, measured efficiency. And it's the emotional impact of When You Were Mine that is its greatest strength. Even in its darkest moments, Serle reminds us there is always light in the darkness. Whether the incandescent warmth of true friendship, the love of family, or the pinpricks of light in the night sky, the sadness in When You Were Mine is always tempered with something more: with hope, with friendship, with the spark of something new and exciting, after the loss of something old and precious.

With the stage is set, the players enter, and events are set in motion. The show goes on. And it’s this relentless march towards the inevitable that lends When You Were Mine such poignant tragedy: the simple knowledge that a few small choices would provide such a vastly different fate for our star-crossed lovers. But this is the question: choice, or fate? Serle examines fate, destiny, and choice, and lets the reader have the final say, lets them choose. It is not a story of blacks and whites, but one of greys and shadow; of loss, of endings, and of new beginnings.

It’s worth noting When You Were Mine’s slow, steady start, but certainly not as a criticism. Though Serle does have a tendency to overload, at times, on what could seem insignificant details, it comes to feel measured, deliberate. Serle takes her time presenting her players. She lets them fall in love; lets the reader fall in love with them, all before tearing them apart and setting her tragedy in motion.
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
Romeo & Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3.

The Verdict:

When You Were Mine is not quite the love story, or the tragedy, you remember. Once again, in a cruel play of fate and synchronicity, the stars align in exactly the wrong way to cause catastrophe. A string of small coincidences, combined to cause something profound. Once again, politics come into play, and lives are destroyed, and ultimately, all are punished.

When You Were Mine isn’t quite Romeo and Juliet, but truly, it is not exactly aiming to be. It is not Romeo's, nor Juliet's story, it's Rosaline's. It's about the girl left behind, forgotten, and learning to live with heartbreak. It’s a retelling, and a reimagining: something slightly different, and, in its own way, something more. It's not entirely a tragedy, and despite its heavy subject, avoids being bleak. It's tempered with something more: hope. It’s not precisely the same love story you know, but if you have one, it will break your heart.

An enormous thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia  for providing a review copy of When You Were Mine.

If you could be in ANY Shakespeare play, which would you choose? Me? A Midsummer Night's Dream. I ADORE it. And, come on, Julie Kagawa fans. PUCK.


  1. Great Review. Hmmm I HATE heartbreak lol. And calm and cool heartbreak is even worse! This sounds really good but I think I'll wait till a different time to read it. To sad for me right now. And I have only read Romeo and Juliet so I don't know anything about Shakespeare's other stuff! But Miss Kagawa's Puck is pretty amazing!

  2. Lovely review, Sarah! I really enjoyed this book! I loved Rosaline but I hated Rob so, so much. And Juliet . . . gosh, she was sure one crazy gal.

  3. Sounds like one of those heroines that would drive me crazy. Sometimes I wish they would just get mad at the guy, you know? I love the idea of what came before Juliet, though (who was in Romeo's little black book before she came along, hmm?)but not sure it's for me.
    Great review:)

  4. Great review Sarah!! I love books that are based off of Romeo and Juliet!!

    I have to say my favorite shakespeare play is Macbeth!! While I love Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night's Dream..Macbeth is my favorite :)

  5. i loved this book
    i liked how the book was divided like a play

    awesome review sarah

    1. Roro! YES! I loved that, how the Acts/scenes/etc matched the ones from the play? It was SO clever ^__^

  6. Gosh I don't know if I could handle reading this one. I was never a fan of Romeo and Juliet because it seemed like such an unstable relationship. You're right that it's really difficult to get involved in a story where you know the ending isn't going to be happily ever after. Though I'm very curious about the events that take us there.

  7. While I've intrigued by this, it hasn't exactly busting for the top spot on my TBR.


    You are disgustingly brilliant at selling a novel. Shouldn't they be paying you to be posting this stuff? The emotional impact of this book is actually what's turning me on so much (er... that doesn't sound right). I LOVE when a relationship or characters capture my heart and then tears it in two, three, a thousand pieces. Definite talent on the authors part and sadistic desire on mine :D

    I'm already feeling for poor Rose :(

    FSKJFVGSJKC REVIEW, AS ALWAYS. (I'm going to adopt the bang-hands-on-keyboard adjectives for your reviews from now on).

  8. I want to read this!! I'm a sucker for adaptations like this :)

    Talk Supe

  9. Oh God, Now I want to kill myself. Not from your review but because I can't stand tragic stories. I don't know why but I think that there is already so much sad stuff in life that I don't want my books to end sadly and make me want to cry. We all know there is no crying in baseball.

    But I am happy you enjoyed it. :)

  10. Oh I didn't know this was Romeo and Juliet story. I've seen the cover but never looked into it before. It sounds really great though and with real emotions that make you care for the characters. These always become favorites of mine. I'll keep an eye out for this one!

  11. I have this book but I keep putting if off as I know heart-break is inevitable. It does sound like a story that will stay with you though so I'm looking forward to reading it and crying my eyes out. ;) great review!

  12. Ah! I actually began to read this the other day and got up to Scene 5. Then Insurgent arrived and's fairly obvious what happened x) I'm looking forward to finishing it! Very worried about the sad bits ahead but there's a light at the end of the tunnel...hopefully.... Great review! Glad you enjoyed this :) *WANTS PUCK*

  13. I would TOTALLY be in Hamlet!! I EFFING LOOOOVVEEE that book. Even though some really crazy shit goes down!

    Anyhoo, LOVE THE REVIEW!! I totally want to read this now.

    1. Hamlet is my favourite Shakespeare... but I don't think I'd wanna be IN it. Midsummer Night's Dream, anyone?

  14. OMG I totally feel you here Sarah! and yes its a slow start but it was sooo worth it after reading it. sooo happy that you enjoyed that book.I loved Len so much! <3

    Great review Sarah. x

  15. Ahhh I've seen a lot of talk of this book! Even though everyone says really good things about it, they also mention how they're frustrated with the characters. I don't think I can read about characters like that without chucking my book, which would be a shame. I think it's a great testament to an author that she can convey emotions so well.

  16. I think the biggest reason I want to read this now is because of the emotional punch I've been promised! If a book can make you feel so strongly, it must be good, right? I confess to kind of hating R&J but this retelling/reimagining definitely sounds like it's worth the read. Can you share some of your brilliance with me, please? :) I want to know what it's like to have such a delicious brain (I think I was just momentarily possessed by a zombie LOL). Fantastic review as always!

    Um, do you mean LIVE in the play or act in it? Acting wise, I would totally pick Macbeth because LADY MACBETH IS SUCH A DREAM PART OMG. I would loooooooove to do the scenes where she goes kind of bonkers (so like all of them). As for living in one... um, A Midsummer Night's Dream, I guess. Because Puck would totally want to be with me so back off, Sarah <3


  17. This sounds pretty cool. Can I borrow at some point?

    Also: the only play of Shakespeare I actually liked was Macbeth, and I think the Doctor Who'd version of the one that never got written was pretty awesome.

    But I DO love the movie of Romeo and Juliet (yay for two Radiohead songs in the album) so I can just think of the movie instead.

    I have a feeling I have read a book like this a few years ago, but I don't remember anything at all about it. I do vaguely remember that I liked it though.

    1. We've totalyl already had this convo, but I will TOTALLY lend you this, I'm just worried you're gonna hate it :P

      I effing LOVE that movie. I cry EVERY time XD

  18. I've skimmed this because I am going to start it this week but I am happy to see it get 4 stars, I can't wait to start!

    1. Mandee! I so hope you love it! *fingers crossed*

  19. Can't wait to try this one out! It sounds so, so tragic, which is kind of the point considering it's based on a Shakespearean play, and we all know how his plays play out. :P Hehe. Yeah, probably in terms of which Shakespearean play I'd want to LIVE IN, I'd go with A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was just so much more comical than others that tend to be either straight or have black humour. And yes, Puck. And just yeah. Plus when I had to study it for English, we all dressed up and took photos in the theme of the play. That was so, so much fun!

    I actually have not read Hamlet. All I know is what everyone knows about it. :|

  20. WHAT? Break my heart? I've been looking for a book that WILL break my heart! Apparently, I have a heart of steel since I haven't found a book that has made me cry. (Except for Pieces of Us, that book was just DEPRESSING.)

    Beautiful review, Sarah! I really want to go check out this book. Who knows, I might buy it in the future. :)

  21. but if you have one, it will break your heart.

    I didn't like this... And it didn't break my heart... Does that make me heartless? *shock face* Am I turning into Brodie? :O I do have a heart, promise. Or maybe I don't. I don't feel a beat, am I not real? *worried face* :0



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