Friday, July 30, 2010

Love Story: The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

"In fair Verona, where we lay our scene . . . "

Kate Sanderson is a sensible girl, so she doesn't think much of it when she boards a plane to one of the most romantic cities in the world for a summer Shakespeare seminar on Romeo and Juliet in Verona. Determined to immerse herself in the rich Italian culture (and pasta and gelato, of course), Kate finds love is the last thing on her practical mind when she meets Giacomo, the handsome, dark-eyed son of her father's academic rival, Professoressa Marchese.

Tracking the plot line of Much Ado About Nothing, Juliet's new friends scheme to bring her and Giacomo together in a summer romance, and spying out their plan, Juliet and Giacomo in turn agree to flirt openly and pretend to become totally smitten with each other. But when the two of them become entwined in a real whirlwind romance, Kate finds herself experiencing real feelings for the gorgeous and charming Italian heart breaker, finding herself as deeply immersed in romance as the real Juliet.

Determined to make the most of their short time together, the couple people-watch in the plaza, sipping lemonade, and share secret kisses under the warm sun with all the Mediterranean delights of the Continent, culminating in their last night together, starring as Romeo and Juliet in their class production of that timeless romance.

A classic romance abroad with enough romantic twists borrowed from several of the Bard's dramas to satisfy the most love-obsessed teen-aged girl, The Juliet Club (HarperCollins, 2010) moonlights as a light read with literary merit deftly concealed by Suzanne Harper's sly borrowings from the Bard. The author even adds a bit of personal insight into the essence of real love in the class's assignment to answer letters from real lovelorn teens as "Juliet" of the Juliet Club, a sort of Italian "Dear Abby" column. The author also colors her storytelling with plenty of historical and cultural details of the setting in Verona, adding a degree of depth not seen in most young adult romance novels.

Harper cut her literary teeth on three spin off novels based on the popular Hannah Montana show (Rock the Waves (Hannah Montana), Hannah Montana: In the Loop, and Swept Up (Hannah Montana), and her highly reviewed young adult novel The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney. Witty storytelling, believable teen characters, and enough Shakespearean subplots to satisfy even an English teacher, this one belongs on any girl's summer reading list.

[Welcome back to my favorite teen reviewer, Julia Teal, back from her own summer seminar, with a review of a fictional counterpart who signed up for no more than a college credit course abroad and found more than she expected.]

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