All tagged Romeo & Juliet

Review: Defy the Stars by Stephanie Parent

This is                
warmth all around me.                
a new 

world opening.                
two stars colliding. And I think                
I’m drowning.

The blurb for Stephanie Parent’s self-published novel in verse, Defy the Stars, says that it will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder. While I disagree that this novel will work for fans of Lisa’s gentle style of storytelling, I imagine that the issue-driven, highly-dramatic style of Defy the Stars will appeal to Hopkins’ readers. 

Unfortunately, like Hopkins’ novels, while Defy the Stars was well-written and readable, I never felt engaged with nor sympathetic to the characters. 

Defy the Stars is told from the point-of-view of Julia, a classical piano student headed to a top-notch music conservatory. She meets Reed, whom she describes as a “stoner” in English class where they engage in a debate about Romeo & Juliet and the notion of love at first sight. The two—thanks to a series of coincidental meetings—quickly begin an intense relationship, but like Romeo & Juliet, find that their love is likely impossible.

The biggest obstacle to the couple’s happiness is Reed’s involvement in drug culture and drug abuse.

“Yeah,” I say aloud, “he skulks around like he’s collapsing under the weight of his own personal rain cloud.”

Julia is quickly finds herself drawn into Reed’s world, and experiments with methamphetamines several times. Meanwhile, Reed continues to spiral downward, taking Julia—who’s distracted by the intense relationship—right down with him. As their relationship unfolds, a tragedy changes everything for both teens, leaving them at a crossroads. 

I’m going to say this straight up: I missed that this is a cautionary tale about drug abuse until I was about a quarter into the book.

This isn’t particularly apparent in either the book description or reviews I’ve read. If I had known this, I probably would not have read Defy the Stars, because I don’t care for novels about drug abuse. Hand-in-hand with stories about this subject matter are chapters and chapters of characters making poor decisions, over and over again. Because of Reed’s drug use, I had a very hard time believing in him as a romantic interest, and while I understand the Julia was interesting in him because he’s attractive and a good musician, I just couldn’t root for them, even as Reed appears to make positive changes in his life.