Inspired by Shakespeare–Or So I Was Told

Today—a rant.

I picked up Starcrossed by Mark Schreiber because it was described as a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.  Also because I wanted to query the agent, but that’s another story.  I even read a review of the book that described it as being a really obvious retelling of R&J.  And I thought, all right, I like Shakespeare, I can go for that.

I am now giving fair warning—if you’re looking for a good retelling of R&J, watch West Side Story.  Don’t read Starcrossed.  This book is no more Romeo and Juliet than it is Hamlet, and I was immensely gratified to see the hero actually point that out halfway through the book.  He was having this discussion with the heroine, who was adamantly convinced that R&J was telling the story of their love.

"Do you bite your tongue at me, sir?" -- The Capulets and the Montagues--not appearing in Starcrossed

But she’s kind of a flake, so that doesn’t signify much.  I’ve read Romeo and Juliet and I’ve seen it performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, so I feel I can make a claim on knowing how the play goes.  Am I right in thinking that the feuding families are just a LITTLE essential to the plotline of R&J?  You can replace them with feuding gangs, I’m fine with that, but if no one’s feuding with anyone, you don’t have Romeo and Juliet.  All you have is a teen romance with some ups and downs, and that’s pretty much every teen romance ever written.

I might forgive this for not being Romeo and Juliet if it was a decent story in its own right…but it’s not.  It’s the love story of Christy and Ben.  They’re together.  They’re not together.  They’re back together.  This gets in the way, that gets in the way, one obstacle doesn’t have much to do with any other obstacle, yeah, yeah, the course of true love doesn’t run smooth, but I would like to feel that the course has some kind of point to it rather than obstacles thrown up for the sake of obstacles.  Especially obstacles like OH NO, you lied to me about your birth date and now our astrological signs are not aligned!!!  I swear I’m not making this up.  This book is contrived, it’s angsty, I disagree wholeheartedly with the reviews it’s getting on Amazon, to the point that I refuse to link to them.

And for heaven’s sake–who names their heroine Christy Marlowe in a book that, theoretically at least, is supposed to be based on a Shakespeare play? Maybe someone who believes Marlowe wrote the plays (by the way–he was dead at the time.  I’m a Stratfordian).

It just goes to show.  Claiming to be inspired by the Bard, A) does not mean you really are and B) does not guarantee a good book.

My sympathies, Mr. Shakespeare.  You deserve better.

One thought on “Inspired by Shakespeare–Or So I Was Told

  1. Diane

    Seems pretty basic that you’d have to have the protagonists separated by a great divide like feuding families or gangs or some such major obstacle to even approach being a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. Maybe the point is just to get people to pick up the book and read it, and like it for its own sake, thereby forgiving the initial devious “hook” of how it’s a re-telling of a classic story.

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