Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
Delacorte Press, 2011, 306 pages
YA Classic-Remake Fantasy
You’d be hard pressed to find an individual unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Curious of how author Stacey Jay would put a new twist on the classic story, I’ve been meaning to get around to this novel for a while. Unlike many of the interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, Jay takes on what many argue is a more accurate perspective — the story is not, as several film adaptations seem to suggest, a love story, but rather a cautionary tale. Jay certainly touches on this in her version of what happens after the poison kills foolish Romeo and the dagger pierces young Juliet. In Jay’s universe, the two live on in a sort of limbo, possessing the bodies of innocents
in order to work as pawns for a higher power. Juliet, tasked with assisting lovers in cementing their commitment, faces off with Romeo, who’s intent on convincing one lover to kill the other and join the ranks of those like Romeo. For seven hundred years, their feud rages on, but this time, something is different and Juliet doesn’t know who she can trust.
Throughout the novel, Juliet inhabits the body of a young girl named Ariel. Because she must convince everyone that she is still Ariel, Juliet’s personality can be difficult to pick out — she often does things “out of character” but the reader is never lost as to why. Jay does an excellent job reminding the reader of the difference between what Juliet is doing for the sake of appearances and what she would actually like to do in any given circumstance. This is largely helped by the first-person perspective. Romeo, meanwhile, is much more difficult to pin down. With a fascinating take on the tragic hero, Jay never quite allows Juliet — and thus her readers — to understand Romeo and his motives. One moment, he’s a sympathetic character, the next he is cruel and unforgivable. This is likely due to the (probable) fact that Romeo himself has not decided what side he is truly on. Ben (our new love interest) is similarly conflicted, though often cast in a much more benevolent light than is Romeo. The complexity is all there. Though it sometimes feels underdeveloped, a little imagination goes a long way when reading Juliet Immortal.
Jay runs into some issues with the plot as she navigates the complicated history and present of Romeo and Juliet. Because Romeo and Juliet are not acting solely on their own motives, the true purpose of their actions are unclear. Jay manages to muddle her way through the particulars, but it seems she is much more aware of all that is to be known than are her readers. The final pages of the novel do promise a sequel (Romeo Redeemed, 2013), so it’s possible Jay wished to withhold information to be released in the follow-up.
The wagon which carries Jay’s plot — that is, the actual writing — is nothing to be noted. It is undistracting and simple, never too flowery or too bland. With the first-person narrative, we rely entirely on Juliet to report all that happens, leaving the style of the language to reflect Juliet rather than Jay or some unnamed narrator. With what little effort the writing requires in the way of reading and deciphering, the book is an enjoyable adventure (although sensitive readers beware — there are some rather gory moments) peopled by a likable and interesting cast.
❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤