I personally find it more difficult to get into books written in third-person. It’s a perfectly valid choice of writing style, of course, and many of my favorite books are written from a third-person POV, like, oh, I don’t know, the Harry Potter series! Tamora Pierce usually writes in the third-person, too, and so does Melissa Marr. So, obviously, it can turn out awesome. But for me, it’s harder to get grabbed from the first page, harder to get completely into the story to the point where I don’t want to answer the phone or eat or anything! It has to be done very well to capture my attention immediately. Also because it’s a little more difficult to get to know the characters, because you’re not inside the main character’s head all the time. I guess it’s just less personal or something. And while I realize that is entirely a personal bias and that neither first nor third person point of view is intrinsically better than the other, it sometimes affects my opinions on books that I read.
And with that in mind, The Juliet Club, written in the third-person (with lots of head-hopping, which was handled with minimal confusion, thankfully–with six main characters, that had to be a little difficult!) did not fully grab my attention. I enjoyed it all the way through, but I wasn’t racing to the next page. I didn’t feel close to the characters. I kept reading, hoping I’d get drawn into the story more, but sadly, no.
The Juliet Club is about six teenagers spending a month in Verona, Italy, the city where Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet takes place. The three Americans are winners of an essay contest whose prize is to study at the Shakespeare Seminar, and the Italians are there for various reasons.
Kate, Tom, and Lucy have flown halfway around the world (not together, as they are from different parts of the country) and are excited for a summer in Italy! Kate’s father is a noted Shakespeare scholar teaching at the seminar, and they’re all staying in a villa owned by his chief rival, Francesca Marchese. Kate is suffering from a broken heart after a bitter breakup, and, as she is a very practical and sensible person, thinks that means love is not worthwhile. Her two best friends, however, think her heart will be thawed with the promise of a summer romance in Italy! Tom is not much of a scholar–his main interest is soccer (er, football, now that they are in Italy!). Lucy is a charming, bubbly Southern beauty who is absolutely swept away by the fact that she is in Italy!
Benno, Giacomo, and Silvia all live in Verona. The three teens come from different backgrounds, and are studying at the seminar for different reasons, and with entirely different attitudes about it. Benno is short, cheerful, and a hard worker who is always having to dash off to run an errand for whoever pays him. His best friend, Giacomo, is the handsome type all the girls fall for, but he never really cares about any of the girls always flocking to him. He flirts, has fun, breaks their hearts, and moves on. He is less than thrilled about having to study Shakespeare all summer, but his mother insists. Silvia is an angry beauty, lashing out at the world for various reasons that will later be revealed.
The six of them are thrown together for a summer of studying Shakespeare by acting it out and answering letters for the Juliet Club. Apparently, people all over the world write the fictional character for advice in romantic matters, and they are supposed to answer these letters. The study of romance is not limited to text and letters, however; there are some romantic sparks flying around in reality, too! And, of course, with that comes romantic mishaps and misunderstandings and all sorts of things that don’t go exactly as they’re meant to.
While this sounds like a lot of fun, and it is, I do think that perhaps Suzanne Harper has taken on too much with this novel. There are six main characters, but I don’t really think we get to know any of them. Kate is in the spotlight more than the rest, but still not very much. Because Harper has to divide the story between all six of them, their motivations and personalities, everything that makes a character seem real, is just explained rather than really shown–she takes the easy way out. As a reader, I didn’t feel close to any of the characters, and didn’t feel like I knew them well. They were not well-developed.
There’s some potential in this story, certainly. I do love books with fun settings, so a summer in Italy is perfect! However, this would have been a much better book if the author had focused on one of the couples, rather than all six characters, and let the reader really get to know them, switching viewpoints. This is making me wish for what might have been! With some changes, this could have been a great book rather than a mediocre one. Especially if the ending had been less tidy. Real life is rarely tidy.
The Juliet Club is enjoyable, but it could have been so much better. You might be better off checking this one out from the library rather than spending money on the hardcover, if you are so inclined to read it. It will be released in June.