When You Were Mine

Narrated by high school senior Rosaline Caplet, this emotionally authentic debut novel inspired by Romeo and Juliet will keep readers engrossed.

Cousins Rose and Juliet Caplet, along with neighbor Rob Monteg, were inseparable as children. But 10 years ago, Rosie's father and his brother, Juliet's father, fell out. Rose recalls a Christmas visit that ended in a scene--horrifying to a seven-year-old--in which Juliet snapped off the head of Rose's brand-new Barbie. Now Juliet is back in town for Rose's senior year, and ups the stakes: she sets her sights on Rose's newly minted romance with Rob.

Serle gets the nuances just right. The optimism of new love, the concerned friends after Rose's heartbreak, and the dynamics of a triangle--not just the love triangle between Rose, Rob and Juliet, but also the friendship triangle of Rose and her two female best friends. Teens will appreciate Rose's anxiety in risking a best friendship to try out romance. So to have Juliet show up and quash it feels doubly cruel. Readers will also sense a more than platonic interest in Rose from offbeat Len, who delivers some of the novel's pearls of wisdom: "Sometimes the hardest part about letting someone go is realizing you were never meant to have them," he tells Rose.

With Serle's credible dialogue and snappy pace, no previous experience with the classic is required to thoroughly enjoy this contemporary novel. Readers may know the outcome from Shakespeare, but the real drama here plays out as the evolution of Rosaline's thinking. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

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