Buy Romeo & Juliet & Vampires
Special $6.74 (Regular price: $8.99)
Publisher: Harper Teen
Reviewer: Melissa on September 1, 2010
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
William Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet is probably one of his most widely read plays among a teen audience. Its themes of family feuds, truelove, revenge, and tragic ends, which are pivotal to the play’s action are all easily understood by young adults; they reflect the dramatic ways in which teens view their own first experiences with love and loss. Thus, Claudia Gabel‘s decision to adapt this romantic tragedy to the monster mashup genre is not surprising. For the August 31, 2010 release of Romeo & Juliet & Vampires, readers can expect a fun read, which will, hopefully, motivate teens to check out Shakespeare’s version again with new eyes.
When I first heard about the novel Gabel was releasing, I wanted to check it out to see the ins and outs of the adaptation process. While many people instantly dismiss the mashup genre, I’ve argued on YABookShelf.com more than once that there can be something worth checking out in these monstrously-infused versions of classic novels and plays. I mean what was Shakespeare himself but a mashup artist par excellence, who only wrote one original play, The Tempest, which is often considered to be the least successful of his oeuvre. When I heard that Romeo&Juliet&Vampires was set to cast the Capulets as a long line of blood-sucking vampires and the Montagues as a gifted family of vampire slayers, I thought that Gabel was definitely on to something.
Having only read one monster mashup novel so far, Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin, and being a consummate lover of all things Shakespeare, I had really high expectations for this novel. In many respects, Gabel has done a great job making this beloved play recognizable in a new setting – Translyvania – and with characters who have slightly different motivations and raison d’etre from those of the original. Moreover, while I personally find a lot to love in the original, I can understand where the dark element of immortality and the secret vampire initiation rite would make this more exciting to a teen audience. Even I can admit that it was a fun read, especially as I got closer to the 80 page mark and beyond.
However, the more I read, the more I realized that transforming a play written in iambic pentameter into a prose novel is difficult. While Gabel, without a doubt, has made a valiant effort, there are some aspects of this novel, which didn’t meet my expectations. First, one of the major differences between plays and novels is that the former are high on dialogue and brief scene descriptions, but more sparse on description and first person point of view, except in the odd soliloquy or aside. For this reason, I found that the first 70 pages or so dragged a little, feeling longer than was necessary. Second, while most of the time, Gabel resisted the urge to use Shakespeare’s Rennaissance English with some slight modern modifications, which I really appreciated, there was at least one instance where she did update one of the famous lines with less than satisfactory results. I’m referring to the novel’s prologue in which the chorus’ lines are modernized in this way, “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-cross’d lovers were fated to find out,” which may not bother a teen reader, but for someone like myself, who has read heavily from the Shakespearen oeuvre, this half-Renaissance, half-contemporary line wasn’t my cup of tea. Personally, I would have much preferred that this line would have been delivered in a fully modernized format.
Of course, these faults occur early on in Romeo & Juliet & Vampires, so as I continued reading, I was able to not only get passed them, but also really get into the paranormal twist on Romeo And Juliet. It is definitely a fun, new take on the classic play and is sure to entertain both bookworms and reluctant readers alike. Who knows, Gabel may make a Shakespearean student out of the most resistant to his iambic pentameter genius.
Buy Romeo & Juliet & Vampires today!