“Still Star-Crossed” by Melinda Taub
4 out of 5 stars.
Romeo and Juliet are gone, their love affair having wreaked irreparable damage on the beautiful city of Verona and her people. Too many souls were lost in this fight between love and hate, and the broken pieces must be put back in their places, hard as that may be. Love didn’t succeed the first time, but second times a charm…
Rosaline, who had spurned Romeo’s advances, feels the heavy weight of guilt upon her shoulders. Little cousin Juliet is now gone, lost to this world because of a bitter and seemingly endless feud; no one even remembers the cause for its birth anymore. Rosaline feels like it was, is, her fault, and maybe if she had accepted Romeo the toll of the death bells would never have echoed down the cobbled streets of Verona. But, still, she is a Capulet, if only by half and that is more than enough to cause a riot; Montague and Capulet could never be friends, only foes and certainly never lovers! Rosaline could feel as guilty as she wanted for as long as she wanted, but that truth would always remain steadfast, immovable as in the generations before her and those to come after. Not even love could break this feud.
Benvolio, friend and cousin to Romeo, now walks the streets of Verona alone. No hot-headed Mercutio to tease Romeo with as they would strolled the city’s streets looking for trouble; no more of Romeo’s poems which had declared his love for Rosaline, then eventually Juliet. The laughter he had once shared with his friends is gone, and now it is only a haunting memory for Benvolio, the sound of it echoing inside his head on an endless reel as he walks the cobbled pathways alone. Friend after friend seemed to have been consumed by this hatred of Capulet and Montague. People had always said that time healed the ache of lost loved ones, but Benvolio has doubts about that theory; when you invest your life in those you love, when one of them dies, a piece of you dies, too. But much to Benvolio’s distain, life does goes on, and the earth will continue its circuit ’round the sun as if his world had not ended the moment his friends and family had taken their last breaths. Sadly, like the sun, he must, too, keep moving forward in the land of the living.
Life goes and so does love. At least Prince Escalus hopes that this is true. Peace seems to slip from his grasp every time he thinks he really has it, then the Capulets and Montagues do something else, and his dreams for a peaceful Verona are dashed to pieces. Can’t they get along for just two minutes? Impatient for rest within his city and among his people, Prince Escalus devises a plan and it involves two very unwilling youths; he will find out, much to his chargrine, his plans will not be easily accomplished.
“Still Star-Crossed” by Melinda Taub was a beautiful and unique read for me. Melinda writes in iambic pentameter, which created a rhythm and beat to the book that I haven’t really experience before, especially in the young adult fiction genre. For those of you who are wary to try Shakespearian “things”, you should really give this novel a shot. The way Melinda Taub wrote her book makes this old style of speech feel completely natural; I’ll admit it took me about twenty pages to get situated, but after that it just became second nature to read this kind of language. “Still Star-Crossed” really stood out because of that, and I probably wouldn’t have loved it as much as I did if the style of writing had been different. I felt like I was in medieval Verona while reading this book because of the way everyone talked, and that really added to the allure of the story.
So, speech aside, I’d say the tale itself was a pretty tall, but Melinda pulled it off quite well. Some Shakespeare fans might not like this book, but I thought for taking a classic story (like the classic love story of all love stories) she did a great job of keeping it true but also recreating it into her own work of fiction. Another thing that was different and cool about “Still Star-Crossed” was how she divided up the book. It is not in chapters but in parts like a play would be. Each “part” or “act” has a quote that gives you a little taste of what will be in that section. I LOVE when authors do quotes or poems before each chapter, so this made me love “Still Star-Crossed” even more.
I think in the end my only issue was with the characters. No, no, no, don’t get worried now. Rosaline, Benvolio, Escalus, and others were all strong characters in their own right. I admire Ms. Taub for creating characters that seemed to jump off of the page because they were so alive, as well as people who stayed true to themselves (very Shakespearian of her) but who also grew into better versions of themselves; growth within a character is what I search for most in the books I read, and I found that here. My issue was that I never really… identified with a particular character. I never found my “soul mate” or “soul sister”, so to speak. I enjoyed these characters and their story thoroughly, but there was something lacking there for me to truly fall in love with them. They were surely alive, but I just didn’t find my usual book “companion” or “comrade”. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t love this book or that they are not good characters, but just for me, I felt a tiny bit distant .
Overall, “Still Star-Crossed” is a great, great read for the young adult crowd as well as just the adult crowd. It is a fantastic and beautifully written story, and is a good retold version of a classic that has truly stood the test of time. This would be a fantastic read for anyone who wants to dabble in Shakespearian language before they jump with both feet first. Give “Still Star-Crossed” a shot, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.