Title: Romeo & What's Her Name
Author: Shani Petroff
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Understudies never get to perform
. . . which is why being Juliet's understudy in the school's yearly "Evening with Shakespeare" is the perfect role for Emily. She can earn some much-needed extra credit while pursuing her main goal of spending time with Wes, aka Romeo, aka the hottest, nicest guy in school (in her completely unbiased opinion). And she meant to learn her lines, really, it's just:
a) Shakespeare is HARD,
b) Amanda, aka the "real" Juliet, makes her run errands instead of lines, and
c) there's no point because Amanda would never miss the chance to be the star of the show. Then, Amanda ends up in the hospital and Emily, as the (completely unprepared!) understudy, has to star opposite the guy of her dreams. Oops?
"For never was a story of more woe, than crushing on a boy who doesn't know...."
I went into this one expecting just a cute read about crushes and all the swoon-worthy moments that come from pining over someone in high school. But this one was about so much more and I appreciated the nuanced relationship between Emily and her friends.
Emily has it bad for Wes. From the first chapter, we know that she's probably felt like this for a long time since her and Wes have known each other practically their entire lives since they are neighbors. When Em finds out that he is going to be Romeo in a production involving multiple Shakespearean scenes, she decides to try out as his Juliet. But things don't go as expected when Amanda, her nemesis, gives the final audition and absolutely kills it.
So Em devises a plan to be Amanda's understudy. Just from the synopsis, we gather what eventually does happen - that Emily actually has to perform as Juliet when Amanda winds up in the hospital the day before the big performance. And what happens made me feel so embarrassed for her. Because Emily, bless her, is a klutz who is as mathematically inclined as she is literary challenged. Learning Shakespearean text is hard for her so you can imagine how successful that scene goes! But this is only half of the book.
The other half really takes off when Emily is dealing with the repercussions of such a mortifying performance in front of the entire school. Actually, there's a real funny moment at the cast party that makes you feel so bad for her yet makes her so endearing. Of course, this is also when we start to see several things: (1) the amazing support friends can give during difficult times; (2) chances lost and won when it comes to miscommunication; and (3) finally realizing that only you can dictate how someone makes you feel or doesn't.
There were so many moments that could have been preachy but weren't and I think the author did an amazing job handling lessons to be learned by young adolescent readers. Honestly, Emily's relationship with Jill and Kayla reminded me of my own strong friendships back in high school. They were the ones who stuck with you through the good times and the bad and who had your back even if you were in the middle of some fight with them (generally, over petty matters).
I also enjoyed the relationship between Emily and Wes. This was a slow-burning romance with events playing out in between which eventually helped bring them closer. And they are perfect for each other, even though they are both too scared or insecure to pledge it to each other right away. I liked that the romance took time to play out.
This is a perfect read for anyone who enjoys contemporary romances with friendships at its core. It also reminded me of well-written books I used to read during my teenage years so I appreciated the nostalgic feeling I had while reading it. Swoon Reads is really stepping it up and I hope you get the chance to check this one out when it comes out next week!
Shani Petroff is a writer living in New York City. She's the author of the “Bedeviled” series, which includes Daddy’s Little Angel, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Dress, Careful What You Wish For, and Love Struck, and is the co-author of Ash. She also writes for television news programs and several other venues. When she’s not locked in her apartment typing away, she spends a whole lot of time on books, boys, TV, daydreaming, and shopping online.
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