Published by Self-Published on 30th July 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories.
Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.
Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.
Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a story, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.
On my first read of Romeo and Juliet, I really wasn’t the biggest fan. Chalk it up to having had a really terrible English teacher that year, or being too unfocused to ‘get it’. Whatever it was, I wasn’t a fan.
Of course, nothing is what it appears, and after the second reading I was head over heels. Regardless of how you feel about the plot alone, R&J opens up a million conversations that I find endlessly fascinating, about choice and love and fate.
Defy The Stars was a pretty exciting concept to me. All ears (eyes?), I started reading, eager to hear what Parent’s take would be on the famed star-crossed lovers.
What I did like:
-I loved how music was constantly on Julia’s mind. It was present when she felt the dissonance of her and Reed’s relationship, during her struggle with the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and when she was listening to a band play in a restaurant, noting how the musicians had spent forever perfecting their pieces. “I’m convinced one day that’ll be me,” she said, “playing my heart out with no one listening.”
-I adored the last few pages. The ending that Parent chose sat really well with me. It left much to the imagination, while still finishing on a strong note. It was, in a sense, a Romeo and Juliet ending, but it was much more, just the story itself, which remained faithful to R&J but also held its own meaning and openly questioned the nature of such a tragic story.
What didn’t work for me:
-There is nothing I despise more than when the protagonist comes with a gang of giggling girlfriends, and although Julia’s best friend Sara extended a bit beyond that, she still fell into this category. Add another girl to the mix who is little more than a name (Rachel), and we’re headed downhill.
‘Oh, they’re so boy crazy, and they won’t leave me alone’, the protagonist whines as she inwardly rolls her eyes. They dress far more risqué than our casual but still pretty MC. They’re are constantly kidnapping her and taking her out to parties, and you can count that she won’t be able to say one word about to a boy without the gaggle teasing her ruthlessly about it later.
When these girls appear in a story and there isn’t some drastic change towards the end when it is revealed that *gasp* the characters are more than the titular props of the MC, it becomes very difficult for me to enjoy the book.
There were times when Parent’s prose succeeded in being vivid and distinct, but there were also times when the verse-like style became choppy and disconnected to the point where it was just distracting and a burden to the story.
If a book is entirely written with breaks like a poem that arise
mid sentence, it better create a strong effect. For me, all that this did was weigh down the writing. Layout aside, the words themselves failed to draw me in, and often became awkward. And why did every other chapter end with ‘for now…’!? Once was enough, and I don’t really understand why there couldn’t have been an alternate way to break up chapters.
The fact that I didn’t care much about anyone but Julia:
So this isn’t a spoiler, because this story is inspired by R&J, and also the first couple pages begin with Julia grieving over Reed’s death and then flash backwards to before he and Julia met, so I feel like I can just come out and say it. I didn’t give a crap when Reed died. I was angry with how it happened, but only because Julia was upset, and the two had been so close to being together.
I also didn’t care very much when someone else close to Julia died, the scene just seemed obligatory rather than devastating, and when a vital character dies, I shouldn’t be completely complacent.
In Romeo and Juliet, the ending is supposed to break your heart, and it does. I feel that a work that draws upon R&J should at least make me feel *something* when the love interest dies. For me, this was perhaps the most disappointing feature of the novel.
Part of this lack of feeling was due to the fact that Reed and Julia’s relationship never really sparked for me. It just felt like ‘we are meant to be together you electrify me’ was a statement that Julia kept saying, but it didn’t really apply. With every scene where Julia monologued about her devotion, I just wanted to ask: ‘But why?’ For the most part of the novel, I didn’t really feel like Reed and Julia connected.
With all of that said, perhaps some of the things that I couldn’t stand won’t be so dramatic to other people, or detract from the story. I can see how this book could be enjoyable, but for me, it was only disappointing and frustrating. If it sounds like your cup of tea, I say to give it a try. It’s a quick read. As for me, I’m done with it. ‘For now.’
No. I’m actually done with it though.