by Mary E. Pearson
Conditional Recommendation: Senior Kaitlin Malone is Juliet to Bram Crutchfield’s Romeo in this contemporary retelling of a hateful family legacy and one girl’s journey to love and understanding.
Though a sort of retelling of Romeo and Juliet, this story is less about romance and more about the consequences of bad blood between families, what it would take to let go of a legacy of hatred, and dreaming of a different future. It’s a sweet story with thoughtful gems of insight about releasing the past to embrace the possibility of a brighter future. I really love the courage Kaitlin displays in challenging long-held beliefs, thinking things through for herself, and daring to dream of something better. The message of this book upholds the value of forgiveness, of starting anew, of changing for the better even when it’s very difficult, and of clinging to hope. Also, the character arc is fantastic!
Romeo and Juliet had the right idea. About dating the enemy that is. They were true to their hearts. Kaitlin Malone knows what it’s like to date the enemy. She was raised to hate the Crutchfields, and absolutely does—until she meets Bram Crutchfield. It turns out he’s a great guy—one she could talk to, share things with…even love. But when Kaitlin gives her heart to Bram, her world spins out of control. Soon the Crutchfields are her friends and she’s a traitor to her own family. To make things worse, Bram was raised to hate the Malones, especially Kaitlin’s father who murdered Bram’s dad. Bram doesn’t know Kaitlin is a Malone. If he did, he would hate her too. What’s a star-crossed lover to do?
I read this book as a young teen and never forgot it. Reading it again at 31 years old, I know why it stuck with me. It’s quietly moving. It’s thoughtful, insightful, and so wonderfully hopeful.
It ends with hope in the best way right after a major step in character growth. Seriously, where the story cuts off is such perfect timing! You can almost here the upbeat ending song as you read the final pages.
As a romance, this of course contains romantic language. There’s some flowery descriptions of how Kaitlin feels about Bram, some kissing, but nothing more than PG. A huge part of the story is Kaitlin lying about who she really is. Yes, lying is wrong but it creates so much tension and is the catalyst for great change in the characters and the story—plus, the lying is never portrayed as good or right.
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