Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: The Juliet Spell by Douglas Rees

Because I am such a sucker for books and I want my children to find the same joy and escape in them that I do, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find books that I think they'll enjoy when I am in the bookstore. Most of the time, I fail miserably. I saw this book on the shelf and after reading the cover copy, wasn't sure my daughter would appreciate it. But the idea of a modern day reworking of the Romeo and Juliet tale caught my own fancy and I regretted not buying it for myself. I told my daughter the premise and she said she'd be willing to read it so immediately back to the bookstore we went. If I had bought it without asking her, odds are she never would have read it but because I wanted to read it too, she zipped through it, enjoyed it, and cheerfully passed it along to me. Obviously I was predisposed to like it and happily, it turned out to be a cute and fun young adult read.

Miranda is a high school theater geek who is trying out for the part of Juliet in the joint high school/community production. She desperately wants the part not only for herself but because her mother, who as an actress before she met Miranda's father, never got to play the part. Miranda thinks it would be lovely to be able to dedicate her performance to her mother, who has been a hard working single mother for the several years since Miranda's father left them to "find himself." Because Miranda wants the part so badly, she goes home and casts a spell to become famous. No, she's not a witch. She's just a teenaged girl desperately wishing, by any means possible, to be cast in the part she wants. But Miranda's spell does work. Sort of. At least when the smoke clears, it appears that Miranda has summoned a real Elizabethan actor into her kitchen. Best yet, his name is Edmund Shakeshank and he is William Shakespeare's younger brother. As Miranda helps him adjust to being plunked down in the twenty-first century, he helps her with her acting and together they run through some of the more entertaining Shakespeare plots all while the play in which they are both players runs into some significant road blocks.

The story over all is charming and fun and the Shakespeare references are entertaining. The novel is not without problems though. It is patently unbelievable and much of it was too easy. No one seems to blink much of an eye that Edmund was inadvertantly transported from his century to ours. And he, in turn, is only incredulous of a few major things rather than completely overwhelmed as any true Elizabethan would be in the same situation. Most of the plot is fairly predictable but there are a few delightful twists that keep the narrative tension from going slack. As a love story, it definitely captures immature high school relationships, as opposed to ones fully realized. The characters are pretty transparent but likable enough. The plot with Miranda's absent father is a false note and was certainly less enjoyable than the rest. While not high literature, the novel was goofy, frothy, entertaining fluff that continues to appeal despite its weaknesses; it left me smiling.

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