Romeo & What's Her Name My Rating:
Published by: Swoon Reads on February 7th, 2017
Genres: Cliffhanger Free, Contemporary, HEA, Romance, Tween, Young Adult
Understudies never get to perform
. . . which is why being Juliet's understudy in the school's yearly "Evening with Shakespeare" is the perfect role for Emily. She can earn some much-needed extra credit while pursuing her main goal of spending time with Wes, aka Romeo, aka the hottest, nicest guy in school (in her completely unbiased opinion). And she meant to learn her lines, really, it's just: a) Shakespeare is HARD, b) Amanda, aka the "real" Juliet, makes her run errands instead of lines, and c) there's no point because Amanda would never miss the chance to be the star of the show.
Then, Amanda ends up in the hospital and Emily, as the (completely unprepared!) understudy, has to star opposite the guy of her dreams. Oops?
Romeo and What’s Her Name by Shani Petroff was full of cuteness, from the cover, to the title, to the story. Yet, I found that while the story was a cute, sweet romance (sort of. I’ll get to that), it touched on some deeper issues too, like the importance of friendship and learning about and accepting oneself.
Emily was a great character. She was funny and smart and most importantly: she wasn’t perfect. She was relatable. One of Emily’s quirks is that she babbles when she’s nervous. Oh, wow, can I relate to that. I felt like I was reading about myself. Seriously. Emily and I have that in common. We’re soul sisters when it comes to embarrassing babbling…
“One of my boobs grew faster than the other, and I had to shove tissues into one side of my bra. And they’d sometimes fall out in gym class.” No, no, no, no. Did I just say that to Wes? Was I really talking about my boobs? And stuffing bras? I so needed a chaperone at all times to save me from myself. “They’re even now,” I added, so there wasn’t any confusion. “My boobs, I mean. No more tissues.” I really needed to stop talking.
Okay, so we all haven’t told our crush that we stuff our bras (hopefully). And we all haven’t acted in a school production of Romeo and Juliet. And for those of us who have (acted in a play, not stuffed our bras), it probably didn’t turn out the way Emily’s scene did, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s the heart of the problem. The “why” and “how” Emily ended up on that stage is what’s important and I think we can all relate to her reasons on some level. Emily’s character was well-developed and multi-faceted. She was likable, relatable, and easy to root for. I wanted to see her get her HEA.
The secondary characters were also well-developed. I liked that Emily had a network of close friends. The author really tapped into the workings of high-school friendships. In fact, I think the book was just as much about that as it was romance. Emily let a friend down in the book and felt an overwhelming sense of guilt because of it. But the reader gets to see the power of love between girlfriends when the friend forgives easily and readily—a great example for tweens, teens, and readers of all ages.
The romance was a tad predictable. It was full of misunderstandings and missed opportunities. But, even so, Petroff was able to breathe new life into an old troupe with her Romeo and Juliet plot line. I mentioned earlier that there was a “sort of” romance. I say this because, as I mentioned, the book is also about friendship. The romance doesn’t take up every single page of the story. In fact, it’s a rather small portion compared to other YA books. But if you are a die-hard romance reader, don’t fret. The love and feels are there. You won’t be disappointed.
The mechanics of the story were good; the writing strong. If I did have to list a con, It’d be that some of the phrasing was too old. By this I mean, it was something my mother would say, not my teenager. Things like: In for a penny, in for a pound. Or the use of per se. But overall, I enjoyed the author’s writing.
Petroff’s writing is strong and her style and voice are easy to read with a rhythm that pulls the reader into her world and doesn’t let go.
Bottom line: I enjoyed Romeo and What’s Her Name. It’s a sweet, clean romance with an HEA and one I wouldn’t hesitate to let my girls read. The theme of friendship was a welcome addition to the standard YA romance. And the opportunity for Emily to learn about herself and grow as a person is something I’d like my girls to learn from. Further, I liked that the boy Emily was crushing on—Wes—was a nice guy. It was refreshing to have a character that wasn’t the typical bad boy we so often see.
I recommend Romeo and What’s Her Name. I will definitely pick up another of Shani Petroff’s books in the future.