My friend Britt (at Confessions of a Book Habitue) passed Pamela Laskin’s Ronit & Jamil along to me when she finished it, and it’s been kicking around my room ever since. Neither one of us cherishes “Romeo and Juliet” as a favorite play, but a retelling set in Israel/Palestine? You’ve got to admit–it’s inspired. I can’t honestly think of a better setting to make the story seem relevant today (although to be fair, I’ve had a few too many late nights, so there’s quite a lot that I can’t think of at any given time this month!). The voices of the two teens are intentionally very similar, which requires a decently close reading but possibly makes for even more depth to the concept. There’s a lot of physical longing–okay, maybe lusting–in the first half, but I do actually remember being a teenager. (It’s certainly not inaccurate.) The ending is perhaps abrupt, but again, I can’t think of a better way to marry her vision for the story with Shakespeare’s.
My biggest issue with Laskin’s retelling is really a personal preference; I’d rather my verse novels tip the scale on the novel side of things, and Laskin strikes me as a poet first. She uses some specific forms of poetry that I learned about at one point but can’t remember the names of–college was a long time ago, you know?–and pays specific homage to middle eastern poetry, which is as it should be. Ultimately, for a poetic verse novel retelling of R&J, this is probably excellent. For me as a reader, the premise rocked, the execution was less my thing, but the author’s note at the end made me happy.
You’ll have to tell me what you think.