*I received a free eARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.
Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.
As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.
I stayed up late to finish reading the day I got approved (the next day was a school snow day so I didn’t have to feel too guilty about staying up until 3…). Guys, this book is so cute. It was like getting wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket and being handed a cup of cocoa. I loved Mattie, our main character. She was so likeable, and her narration genuinely felt like I was peering into the mind of a middle school girl. When Mattie starts crushing on Gemma, you can’t help but cheer her on. I loved that this book tackled a character struggling with bisexuality, but without turning it into an angst fest. This is a book about a girl who has a crush. Yes that crush is a girl, but the focus remains on what Mattie is feeling about Gemma, rather than obsessing over the character’s genders, and also just about the awkwardness that is middle school. The story remains light, and reads almost no differently than if Mattie’s crush were male instead. This is fantastic example for middle school readers. Sexual orientation shouldn’t be something that causes sadness or embarrassment, and this book would be such a positive read for a student who might be questioning. Additionally, the writing and plot are so engaging that this book would appeal to any other readers just looking for a sweet romance story.
*I loved the incorporation of Shakespeare. When I taught A Midsummer Night’s Dream to my eighth graders last year, a lot of them were a little intimidated. Star-Crossed makes Shakespeare cool, and provides a really accessible take on Romeo and Juliet. The subtle parallels that Dee draws between the Romeo and Juliet and Mattie’s life were a great touch. With a less skilled author, these parallels would have been overbearing, but Dee worked them into the story so well that I didn’t even notice she had done so until many chapters into the story. I adore Shakespeare so I enjoyed seeing his work used in the story, and it was so fun trying to spot the “Easter egg” parallels to Romeo and Juliet (possible future classroom activity? Hmm…).