Written by Melinda Taub
Published by Delacorte Press
Published on July 9th 2013
Genres: Historical fiction, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Discover what happened after the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet, as mysterious figures in Verona are determined to reignite the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets.
In fair Verona, enemies still walk the streets.
Two news hearts. Same two families.
The fight to the altar is about to happen.
All. Over. Again.
This homage to the classic Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet will have readers pining for a star-crossed love of their very own.
I read Still Star-Crossed after the show of the same name started airing, in part because I fell in love with Benvolio and Rosaline and wanted more, and in part because I wanted to know what happens next. But let me tell you, where the show grabbed my heart after one episode, the book was an utter disappointment.
I’ve always been a sucker for Romeo & Juliet, no matter what people will say about it. (Yes, they were just stupid kids… Yes, they could have easily avoided their fate… Yes, I know, I know, but it’s still tragic and sad, okay?) And Benvolio has somewhat always been my favourite Shakespeare character, mostly because I fell in love with him at 8 when watching the French musical live. I will let you google that one.
So a story about what happens after the death of our star-crossed lovers? Count me in!
Except… Not really. Still Star-Crossed was an disappointment from beginning to end. There are good things about the story, and the ultimate plot-twist is really nice since I didn’t see it coming at all. I will also admit that Benvolio and Rosaline are compelling characters, that they go well together, and their love story is nice to follow. But, really, that’s about it.
All through the book, Taub keeps switching between modern English and ‘Shakespeare’ English, in such a way that makes no sense at all and just gets really tiring really soon. During one line of dialogue, the characters will speak all proper and pompous, only to speak like modern teenagers in the following lines. It is such a case of “if you want to do something, just stick to it or don’t do it at all” that it gave me whiplash after a while. And even without taking this into account, most of the dialogues in this book are stale and unbelievable, to the point where I wanted to shake the author and tell her nobody talks like that out loud. Nobody!
Still Star-Crossed also just reads like fanfiction. Only, the bad kind. I love fanfiction, as I said in my review of Fangirl, but this book takes the cake with all the bad fanfiction lines that everyone should have left behind in 2009. Rosaline holds a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. Benvolio smells like leather and wood and just him. Barf. I am all about retelling and expanding on already existing stories. I think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one of the best things to ever happen in the history of literature. But there is an art to fanfiction, and Melinda Taub definitely doesn’t master it.
But mostly, beside the writing style, what upsets me most about Still Star-Crossed is how infuriatingly misogynistic the story is. We could have a long debate about historical accuracy and the like, but let’s make one thing clear: if you want your book to be historical accurate (whatever that means) but don’t challenge those views while targeting an audience of young girls… Damn, but you’re doing it wrong.
The book is only 350 pages, but it’ 350 pages of glorification of Rosaline’s virginity. Half of Rosaline’s character development is fuelled by her need not to tarnish her reputation (read, not to have people believe she had sex while not married), which leads to the Prince literally getting her drunk so she sleeps in her bed, then slut-shaming her into doing what he wants the following morning. ROMANTIC, AM I RIGHT? Because that’s the problem, the Prince remains a romantic prospect all through the book despite this adorable moment of blackmail and nothing in the narrative tells us “huh, this is wrong.” No challenging of his behaviour whatsoever. No consequences, beside the fact that he ultimately doesn’t get the girl. Nothing.
All in all, Still Star-Crossed reads like the kind of fanfiction I hate above all else and promotes backward views that are still too prevalent in young adult literature aimed at women. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, so it’s a good thing that the book is unavailable to buy to this day. Because I wouldn’t recommend buying it. At all.