“When You Were Mine”Author: Rebecca Searle
Publisher: Simon PulsePages: 334.
Summary (taken from Goodreads): In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale. What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.
Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.
Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends…
Sometimes a book calls out to you, be it for all the right or wrong reasons. When it comes to re-imaginings of age-old tales and classics of the literary pantheon, one must tread lightly, particularly when entering the realm of William Shakespeare. It’s important to remember the cultural and historical context of his work when applying it to a modern day setting. It’s possible to remain faithful to the source material while still adapting it to fit today’s moral & societal changes. A good example of this is the movie “10 Things I Hate About You”, a high school retelling of the very archaic “The Taming of the Shrew”. Said play is pretty misogynist, emphasising the important of subduing a woman’s fiery spirit in favour of making her an obedient wife. In “10 Things I Hate About You”, the “shrewish” heroine does not change for a man, nor is she forced into it. Their romantic resolution is witty, equally matched and doesn’t rely on either of them completely changing their personalities. I highly recommend the film if you haven’t seen it. However, today’s review is about a less successful Shakespeare modern day retelling. “When You Were Mine” actually manages to be just as, if not more sexist than the play it’s taken from, the ever popular “Romeo and Juliet”.
I have a big revelation for you all, dear readers. It may shock you, it may not (I hope not), but I’m sick of the world still living by this false assumption in 2013 and think it’s time to set the record straight for the good of us all.
There is no such thing as a slut.
Seriously. They don’t exist.
If someone calls you a slut, then ask them to define it. Usually they can’t, or the definition changes with every person you ask.
That’s because there’s no such thing as a slut.
The term “slut”, and variations on that term, are so casually tossed around towards women, basically exist to shame women for being vaguely sexual, although they’re just as commonly used as insults to women for completely unrelated reasons (wearing a low-cut top is tantamount to being the whore of Babylon according to some). Women are often depicted as being manipulative, stupid, malicious or just plain evil solely based on their sexuality – they’re evil because they’re a slut, and they’re a slut because they’re evil. Poor innocent men are snatched from their true loves by those evil sluts, who don’t have real human emotions like the nice girls, and leave men completely merciless to their slutty wiles. These women all look a certain way – usually blonde, wearing lots of make-up and revealing clothing, often compared to porn stars or blow-up dolls, frequently cheerleaders. Many jokes will be made about sexually transmitted diseases towards these sluts, although male “players” are clean on this front. More often than not, bad things happen to these women, but don’t worry, because they deserve it.
Remember, these women don’t exist.
I stress this because after reading “When You Were Mine”, I seriously began to believe that the author, a woman herself, hates other women, or had a cousin who seriously messed with her at some point during her life. In this modern version of the oft-imitated tale of star-crossed lovers, Rosaline is beginning a relationship with Rob Caplet (see what they did there?) just as her cousin Juliet returns to the scene and immediately snatches him away. Rob goes from being besotted with Rosaline to completely obsessing over Juliet, that slut. Juliet is, of course, a heavy make-up wearing spoiled brat with bleach blonde hair who snatches away innocent men and turns them into little lapdogs. But never fear, good readers, because underneath that harsh and fake exterior is a broken little girl who is just jealous of her plain but intelligent cousin, and will meet a tragic end that will be entirely blamed on her.
Do you see where this book goes wrong?
In “Romeo and Juliet”, Rosaline is never on stage, and serves more as a plot point than anything else. She is a means for Romeo to attend the Capulet family’s party and meet Juliet, his true love. A lot of great literary analysis has been written on her and I implore you to check some out because you won’t find any of that here. In the play, where Rosaline serves as a contrast and plot point, here she is the angel to Juliet’s whore. The naïve teenage girl consumed by first love in the face of petty familiar conflict has been turned into a slut, and later on a dead slut.
This is not okay.
There is literally nothing else to Juliet’s character except her evil sluttiness and the consequences of it. In this book, being a slut is literally described as being a defining quality!
"Charlie says there's a difference between being a slut and being slutty. She thinks Olivia was slutty for hooking up with the Belgian, but she would never call her a slut. Her theory is that the distinction is between how you act and who you are. Olivia's was an action, whereas Darcy's is a defining quality."
Charlie and Olivia are Rosaline’s friends. So there you go – good friends can be slutty but they’re never sluts. That’s for other women.
Juliet is entirely blamed for Rob’s actions, which is both sexist and daft. The last time I checked, men were autonomous creatures completely capable of doing as they pleased. Women can do that sometimes as well. By putting all the blame on Juliet for Rob’s actions (as if his penis just fell into her vagina), his responsibility is completely removed from him. He’s not a victim; he knew exactly what he was doing! Of course, in the end he tries to run back to the good and sweet Rosaline, but it all ends badly (do I even need spoiler alerts for “Romeo & Juliet”?) because that is the normal way of things. In 2013.
I actually have nothing else to say about this book because I can’t remember a single thing about it outside of the weapons grade level of slut-shaming. Taylor Swift looks like bell hooks in comparison to “When You Were Mine”. I honestly can’t get over how much this book hates women. It’s archaic and makes Shakespeare’s Elizabethan era play look progressive in comparison. At least in “Romeo & Juliet” the pair were supposed to be blind with infatuation and Juliet didn’t shove the poison down Romeo’s mouth. It’s not as if the original material is untouchable, and it’s not as if there isn’t great potential in giving some depth to Rosaline, but absolutely no effort is put into that here because the author is so concerned with demonising Juliet to the point of insanity. Take my advice and stick to the source: It’s better written, makes some sense and doesn’t loathe women.