Title: The Juliet Club
Author: Suzanne Harper
Published: June 2008 (Harper Teen)
Summary: Italy...Shakespeare...but no romance?
Kate Sanderson inherited her good sense from her mother, a disciplined law professor, and her admiration for the Bard from her father, a passionate Shakespeare scholar. When she gets dumped, out of the blue, for the Practically Perfect Ashley Lawson, she vows never to fall in love again. From now on she will control her own destiny, and every decision she makes will be highly reasoned and rational. She thinks Shakespeare would have approved.
So when she is accepted to a summer Shakespeare symposium in Verona, Italy, Kate sees it as the ideal way to get over her heartbreak once and for all. She'll lose herself in her studies, explore ancient architecture, and eat plenty of pasta and gelato. (Plus, she'll be getting college credit for it—another goal accomplished!) But can even completely logical Kate resist the romance of living in a beautiful villa in the city where those star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet met and died for each other? Especially when the other Shakespeare Scholars—in particular Giacomo, with his tousled brown hair, expressive dark eyes, and charming ways—try hard to break her protective shell?
"In fair Verona, where we lay our scene..."
My Review: If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be charming. Sometimes, a book has an opening line of such brilliance that you simply know you are in for a treat. While The Juliet Club's was not necessarily brilliant, it was utterly perfect. I always love it when I start a book out on a laugh.
❝Which one of Johnny Burwell's eyebrows do you think is cuter?❞
The Juliet Club made me laugh many times, heave deep sighs of emotion, and smile whimsically. Lest the summary lead you astray, this is not a story only about Kate. It is about all six of the high school age teenagers in the Shakespeare symposium, and there are a few portions flashing over the ocean back to Kate's best friends in the USA as they read her correspondence. There are three main storylines that go on throughout the book, and all of the main characters are the narrators at times. The marks between changes in POV are usually nonexistent. The first few times, it is confusing, but once you become accustomed to it, you easily pick up on the shift. Also, the book is broken up into acts/scenes instead of chapters, which was absolutely perfect.
I am a huge enthusiast regarding both Italy and Shakespeare, so I loved that both were huge themes in this book. The story is set in Verona, so we get the beautiful feel of Italy (well, I would imagine, having never been there myself). The focus of their symposium is Romeo and Juliet, but there were references to many other Shakespearean works throughout the book. The most obvious is the similarity between the romances of Kate and Giacomo and of Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing, something is even addressed in the story.
It can be difficult to keep up with a book with so many different POVs and storylines, but Harper executed it flawlessly. Everyone was unique, none of the names were similar, and the storylines, while all were romantic, were different enough to not get repetitive. All the characters were likable and interesting. I could describe them, but I will let the quotes do the talking.
❝Coming to class without a pen and notebook was like showing up in her pajamas. She couldn't imagine it.❞Giacomo:
❝It was amusing to tease serious girls. He liked the way they condemned his every move. It made him feel worldly and depraved.❞For the sake of time and length, I will limit it to the two of them, although I loved them all. Lucy conveyed my feelings about running for fun perfectly:
❝Oh, honey, I wouldn't run unless I was being chased by a bear.❞
The supporting characters were fantastic. Giacomo's grandmother was strong and hilarious, Kate's father endearingly enthusiastic, Kate's mother snarky but loving, their professor bold and colorful, and Kate's best friends back at home funny and the perfect embodiment of teenage friendship.
I absolutely loved the tone of the entire book. It shifted with the setting -- for instance, it was a little dreamier and more romantic when in Italy and more loose and fun in America. Throughout the book, though, it was consistently well-written and alluring.
I wish we would have had more time with Kate and Giacomo to see their relationship develop. I know authors have to stay within word limits, but I definitely would not have minded another 50 pages at all. I never wanted this book to end! Yet it did, all too soon, even though it was just over 400 pages. I would honestly recommend this book to anyone, but I think there's another level of pleasure to be derived from it if you are a fellow Shakespeare lover. (I also suggest listening to Josh Groban's Un Giorno Per Noi (Romeo E Giulietta) during the reading. :) )