Just Juliet transported me back to my high school days
I was recently contacted by Ms Reagan with the request to read and review her debut novel, Just Juliet. The combination of Young Adult (YA), LGBT and the mere fact that a stranger contacted me with the question of reviewing a book was intriguing enough to say “yes”. Just Juliet is a very low key drama, angst free. Most of the drama lies in the past, and is merely described in passing.
Just Juliet is an easy read, very well written, and you get caught up in the narrative almost instantly. The main protagonist is a girl by the name of Lena. Lena is attractive, although, like all (?) girls, she’s not so sure. Her assurance of attractiveness is based on the crowd she hangs with in high school (cheerleaders) and the fact that her boyfriend is a football player. Yes, cliché, but then again, isn’t that exactly what it’s like in real life? Still, to this day, women don’t value their own worth based on their self-esteem, but in relationship to something else. I can’t even begin to number the amount of discussions I’ve had with friends about this topic. Just yesterday, I had a friend tell me just how ugly and unattractive she was. Duh, so not true, but women and self-esteem issues… Just Juliet doesn’t wipe that aspect under the carpet.
In comes Juliet, a new girl in school, transferred from another school in town. Nothing wrong with her self-esteem, she is very comfortable in her own skin. The two girls form a friendship and that’s where things begin to happen. Slowly. In parallel, we also get to follow a gay (male) couple, and they form the template for Lena and her journey out of the closet. Now this is Young Adult, not what I usually read, and some descriptions felt a bit stereotypical, at least to the mind of someone who’s lived through three high school ages. I would imagine that teen life is much more black and white, at least I remember it that way. I remember writing Spanish Bay, and having to sometimes simplify matters, too, for the sake of the intended YA audience.
One of the topics discussed in the book is that of bisexuality. For many young people coming out of the closet with a same-sex attraction, the road to gay/lesbian is often travelled via bi. That is a fact. I’d once done the same. However, it also nullifies the very real existence of men and women who are bisexual. Ms Reagan does a beautiful job at explaining that difference, which may be difficult for someone who’s in that situation. Mind you, life is difficult enough for teens, with the demands of life, college, parents, friends, and what not. To add the LGBT factor is a nightmare. I know, Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Yet things have changed, and while the four LGBT characters all have their own story, from absolute nightmare to the “oh, that’s all?” experience, coming out today isn’t as big an issue as it was back when I had to.
It’s nice to see that the changes in time are also reflected in literature. The fact that teens today react much more shrugish to the concept, whereas we were completely shunned by everyone. That is progress, and it’s all good. I really enjoyed reading Just Juliet, and the ending had me tear up. I think it was perfect. And no, no spoilers.
I would hope that Just Juliet continues to be a best seller (as it is right now) and that it will find its way into many school libraries around the world. This is exactly the kind of book I would have needed to read when I was Lena’s age.
Just Juliet is published by Inkitt and is available from Amazon and other retailers. Read it!
PS: Four days left (if I’m counting correctly) until my next book is released. This Thursday, I finally get to present you with Jonathan’s Legacy, the final book in the Jonathan Trilogy. Have you pre-ordered your copy yet? This Friday, I’ll tell you more about this book and the unexpected trilogy…