REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare

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Filled with plots, murder and intrigue, this quintessential tale of forbidden romance has withstood the test of time. The son of a wealthy family, Romeo, finds himself falling deeply in-love with Juliet, the daughter of their sworn enemy. Cruelly torn apart by the family feud, Romeo and Juliet swear their love to one another and vow to one day be together. Tragic, filled with costly mistakes and seemingly inescapable commitments, the play sees the two lovers lives and deaths finally entwine, reaching a dramatic and heartbreaking conclusion.

This was a very odd pick for me. As with any student who has passed through the Australian education system, I have a deep-rooted love/hate relationship with William Shakespeare. Admittedly, I do not read enough of this type of literature, so one rainy day, on a whim, I plucked this piece from my bookshelf and read the story in short increments across three nights.

Now, over the course of this new reading experience, a number of things proceeded to happen. 1. My internal monologue, for up to an hour afterward, took on a melodic flow and occasional rhyme, as if a continuation of the story, which was disorientating. 2. My dreams got really weird, like, really weird – reading this book before bed was perhaps not the greatest decision I have ever made, as my dreams consistently began taking on an unearthly ebb throughout the night. 3. I found myself…well, enjoying Shakespeare! Something I frankly considered to be an impossibility. Gone was the tear inducing boredom of forced readings and essays from my high school days, replaced by an appreciation for Shakespeare’s penmanship and storytelling.

I quite enjoyed the characterization in this story. Although Romeo and Juliet are extremely unrelatable and at times the drama is over the top, I couldn’t help but fall for the story. I think we all have a relatively clear grasp of this classic plot, absorbed through years of pop-culture references, but the elements brought to the piece through the classic reading really does add to the tale. Additionally, Shakespeare’s undeniable way with words makes the reading experience ultimately worth while.

So, if you, like me, have a tarnished view of Shakespeare, and ever feel the compulsion to begin reading one of his stories, Romeo and Juliet is a great place to start. You never know, you may end up enjoying it (I know, I can’t believe it either)!

Give it a read: 3 stars

REVIEW: If I Stay written by Gayle Forman

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A young family is struck by tragedy as a snow day turns into a life-altering catastrophe. Mia, a young and talented cellist, wakes to a living nightmare as she finds herself separated from her horrifically injured body, barely clinging to life. Following herself through hospital halls and operations, the reality of her situation hits as bad news leaves her realizing that she needs to make one pivotal decision, should she stay on in this life, or move onto the next?

Keeping in trend with 90% of the young adult novels to hit our shelves over the past decade, If I Stay combines tragedy and a sweep-you-off-your-feet romance with an almost-famous love interest. The context in which the story is told proves interesting, as flashback sequences tell various stories about our young heroine’s past as they become relevant. The main storyline, sans flashback, is not a happy one. Brutally graphic in parts, the core of this novel centers around a teenager’s love of music, particularly her passion for classical and her life obsession with cello playing.

I have to admit, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I could see where the author was going, and how clever her method of story telling was, and I could certainly see how she was trying to separate her novel from all the other young adult books out there, by making music the overarching theme, bringing together the love interest and serving as the main characters motivation…but did it work? Sadly, in my opinion, no. Towards the end I found this book to be overly preachy, with the idea that music is life, music can solve all, all we need is music, to be, quite frankly, at times ridiculous! For example, I cannot remember one instance where the main character and her love interest’s conversations are not about music, or leading to a conversation about music. The forced resolution at the end, also derives from, you guessed it, music. At times during my reading, I genuinely cringed. As I said, I can really appreciate what the author was trying to do, and I wish more than anything that she had succeeded, but in my opinion this one misses the mark.

I read this book because I knew it had been turned into a cinematic piece, and had high hopes, especially after some recommendations from friends, that this would be a good one. Having first read the novel, and then viewed the movie (because you should always read the book first if you can), I can’t help but feel as though the movie may have done a better job on this one. Cutting a lot of the story line, and bringing the music to the forefront without slapping you in the face really suited the story. So sadly, if you haven’t read it yet, and are avoiding the movie because of it…maybe just head straight to the DVD.

Watch the movie instead: 2 stars