When You Were Mine was a delightfully surprising read. I say this because I'm not normally fond of retellings and I wasn't really keen to read this book. But I'm glad I gave it a chance, because it completely won me over. While it is touted as a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, it felt fresh and new, mainly because it is narrated by Rosaline, Romeo's first love, and it tells her side of the story.
By having the story centre on Rosaline, a character that we know little about from the Shakespeare play - except that Romeo was initially enamoured with her - it allows Serle to really stretch and develop this character. Rose was someone I would want to be friends with. She's popular, but nice. Smart, but prone to being judgemental; and while completely in love with Rob (aka Romeo) at the beginning of the novel she isn't obsessed to the point of being delusional. Her friends Charlie and Olivia were just as well drawn out and characterised. I loved how strong, outgoing, and outspoken Charlie was, and even though she and Olivia are total Mean Girls they are good friends to Rose.
Serle put a lot of work in establishing the relationship between Rose and Rob at the beginning of the novel and it made the inevitable heartbreak even more painful to read about, knowing that Rose and Rob had been best friends since childhood. Serle's ability to make me love both the idea of Rose and Rob at the beginning of the novel, and then Rose and Len, an unpopular slacker, later is a testament to her writing skills.
The connections and parallels with Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet are few and far between. Which, while nice for people who dislike retellings (like myself!), if you went into this hoping for a close retelling of the original Shakespeare play it won't live up to your expectations. Even though we all know how this story must end, When Your Were Mine felt so distant from the original that I wasn't even sure of what the outcome of this novel would be.
All in all, When You Were Mine is one of the best retellings I have read and completely changed my mind about them in general. I would definitely recommend this bittersweet story of first love to all contemporary young adult lovers.
Have you read this book?
If so, what are you thoughts on it?
Do you love or loathe retellings?