Monday, February 20, 2017

YA Review: Ronit and Jamil

Ronit and Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin, February 21, 2017. 192 pages. Published by Katherine Tegen Books. Source: Publisher.
This beautiful and lyrical novel in verse delivers a fresh and captivating retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the barrier fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. Only miles apart but separated by generations of conflict—much more than just the concrete blockade between them. Their fathers, however, work in a distrusting but mutually beneficial business arrangement, a relationship that brings Ronit and Jamil together. And lightning strikes. The kind of lightning that transcends barrier fences, war, and hatred. Ronit and Jamil fall desperately into the throes of forbidden love, one that would create an irreparable rift between their families if it were discovered. But a love this big can be kept secret for only so long. Soon, the teenage lovers must face the fateful choice to save their lives or their loves, as it may not be possible to save both. 

First Sentence

I go with him to work, my Abba
it's summer
a leech
an ulcer.

Truth be told, I'm not a fan of Romeo and Juliet to begin with. Every single time that book is mentioned I have a tendency to go off the rails and rant about how it was such a terrible influence for authors (but that's a story for another day). The question remains, how did Ronit and Jamil work for me? Well, let's see!

  • Even though Shakespeare's R&J is, perhaps, one of the worst (anger inducing) books I have ever read, I decided to give Ronit and Jamil a chance. I was interested in seeing how the author, Pamela Laskin, would retell the story; that and my curiosity of seeing the story told from the viewpoint of Ronit, an Israeli girl, and Jamil, a Palestinian boy. While I cannot honestly say whether she handled the characters well nor the conflict in Gaza, I was hoping for something more in her modern retelling....that something more that was lacking.
  • Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of poetry or books written in verse. Typically, they just do not work for me. So, even though it took me about twenty minutes to read Ronit and Jamil, as it was a quick read, it failed to hook me for many reasons. Reasons like that it felt like another young adult (I'll be blunt here) book that was trying to sell promiscuity. For the most part, young adult books have not been able to capture the true beauty of love. Not in the sense that it is actually supposed to be. Like this book, it lacked the beauty and depth that love is; it just felt like two young kids lusting after what was forbidden. There was so much wasted potential in this book that it makes me angry...especially since I read it cover to cover.
  • I don't usually say this but...this is one book that I will NOT be recommending at all. Even though I found the change of setting and the history filled conflict between Israel and Palestine an interesting bridge between the characters, given their long-standing history of bad blood, it was not enough to cover up for the poor writing and use of cliched plot devices. Seriously though, I would have loved to have seen more come from their falling in love; like maybe it bringing their families together (now that would have been a great twist!).
Final Verdict: Ronit and Jamil-  Frankly, I wish I had either DNF'd this one or had spared myself by not reading it. The story could have gone done a number of roads, given that its a modern retelling, and yet, it took the typical route; except one instance (discounting the setting). 

Ronit and Jamil earns
A copy of this book was received in consideration for review from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

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