THE JULIET SPELL By Douglas Rees [Review]
There’s a lot of good to be said about Douglas Rees’ tale of Shakespearean time travel, THE JULIET SPELL. The YA novel follows Miranda, a high school thespian who believes by winning the role of Juliet in the community theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet her estranged father will come back home. She basically has the mindset of tiny Joseph Gorden Levit in Angels in the Outfield; but at least he was working off an actual misconstrued promise.
So she delves into the black arts, or at least opens one of those teen witch books that were flying off the shelves during the Buffy/Charmed/Craft fueled Wicca craze, and tries to conjure some Shakespearean mojo. She gets more than she bargained for when William Shakespeare’s kid brother Edmund ends up in her living room. And wackiness ensues.
I have to give Rees credit for chalking the appearance of a 15th century English citizen in 21st century America to a little bit of medieval science fiction rather than Miri’s new found mystical powers. It would have been easy to go down a witchy route, but combined with the time travel angle the narrative would have stalled.
As the book stands the arrival of Ed and his exploration of his new world is a little sluggish, but needs to be for any sense of realism;you need a few chapters of the Victorian exclaiming over the magic of little men trapped in a flat box. Once Ed eases into the digital age (aided by an almost immediate affection for cola) we can get to the heart of the story-the romance.
Because Miri gets the part, and the talented (and suitable) Ed is her Romeo, and suddenly she has a cute guy with an English accent who’s into Shakespearean plays living under her roof. And really just one of those attributes would make any self respecting high school girl a little weak in the knees. Alas, as she pines for Ed he’s chasing the school floozy. The tension between herself and her competition is supposedly apparent to all involved with the show, which seems like it should raise more questions as she’s introduced Ed as her cousin.
Another love complication arises in the form of a bookish actor who quickly realizes Ed isn’t from around here and offers to find a way to help, all the while sending major signals Miri’s way, though she never picks up on them. Even as Miri’s crush on Ed becomes more reciprocated, the reader is being told; one of these guys is going to stay in present day America, and that’s probably the one Miri’s destined for. Still, there’s plenty of build up and far more poetic declarations of love then most teen girls get, literary or otherwise, and if two star crossed lovers aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of drama to be found with the rest of the drama crew, from petty jealousy over parts to more serious jealousy over infidelity.
Overall this is a fun book full of romance and Shakespearean curses. A little more explanation and dissection of the bard’s story of forbidden love then I’d like, but a quick read that will have you digging out your old copy of Romeo and Juliet, or at least renting the Leonardo DiCaprio version.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars | Publisher: Harlequin | Pages: 272 | Source: Netgalley | Buy on Amazon
This article was written by Molly Horan an MFA student at The New School. You can find her on twitter @molly_horan.