Ashleigh Paige

I'm a full-time college sophomore pursuing my B.A. in English with hopes of one day working as an editor. Cats, musicals, documentaries about cults/disasters/tragedies, and curse words are just a few of my favorite things. Also, check out our blog or I WILL FIND YOU.

When You Were Mine

When You Were Mine - Rebecca Serle See more of my reviews sooner on The YA Kitten! I received a copy through Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab.My "ladies can't fucking swear my ass" shelf? Is attached because this book made me swear a fuckton lot.When You Were Mine boasts a problematic premise that originally warded me away from it. In Romeo and Juliet, the infamous play this book is a modern retelling of, Romeo is a fickle dickbag who dumps the woman he is supposed to love for someone else he met while trying to see her. He is the problem, not a victim of the problem. In When You Were Mine? Romeo is merely the victim of Juliet, who stole him from Rosaline. I side-eyed the book over this, but I gave it a try when the chance to review it came along. It couldn't live up to its horrible blurb, right? Some great books have had terrible blurbs.It turns out the book lived up to its blurb after all.The first seventy pages grated on me so badly that I nearly gave up. Rose describes one of her friends as "bleating" and I side-eyed her further over her views of how girls have the "subtle ability to warp actual circumstances into something different." Even when she says she's not trying to say girls get delusional, that is pretty much what she's saying. Her friends Olivia and Charlie aren't much better; they resemble the mean girls who spread rumors and give people negative nicknames they can't get rid of. Their characters and most other supporting characters have all the depth of a drop of water.I can hardly begin to describe all the problematic issues this book helps perpetuate. A minor one is exotification--one character who hails from Belgium referred to by his name (Jhone) only once and is called the Belgian for the rest of the book. Reducing someone to their nationality? Not funny. Encouraging slut shaming and saying a girl's sexual activity defines them? Not funny. Encouraging girl hate by immediately labeling a new girl as "competition" to the main character? Not. Fucking. Funny. The largest ones, the Taylor Swift Syndrome and making Juliet out to be a man-stealer, are discussed a little later.The nicest thing I have to say is that Rose has great chemistry with her love interests when having romantic interactions with them. When she and Rob are on their date, their awkward yet sweet interactions were fantastic. Once Rose starts growing closer to Len after Rob has left her for Juliet, their scenes feel real. Len is probably my favorite character, seeing as he is the main voice of reason throughout the book. I also appreciate that the book does not take pains to do what other retellings do and present Romeo and Juliet (in this case, Rob and Juliet) as being truly in love. You can't mistake it as anything other than a disaster in the making.We all know what Taylor Swift Syndrome is, right? In case you don't, I'll explain (and I use heteronormative terms because that was the case in this book; the genders of those involved can change): Girl Next Door loves Boy, but Boy doesn't quite realize that yet. Then along comes Mean Girl, who sweeps Boy away and "steals" him from Girl Next Door. Once everything runs its course, Mean Girl gets her "just desserts" and Girl Next Door has Boy. This gains its name from Taylor Swift because her song "You Belong With Me" and the music video for it exemplify this situation well.I hate Taylor Swift Syndrome passionately. As the events run their course, I feel Girl Next Door often turns out to be more of a mean girl than Mean Girl, who comes out of the situation looking like the real victim. Her only crime is going for the guy she wanted. Taylor Swift Syndrome is pretty much the story of When You Were Mine and instead of siding with Rose, I side with Juliet. She is the true victim and I wish I could give her the support she needs.No one ever tells her that Rob and Rose were involved, you see. Why is she shamed for going after a guy she likes when no one, including the guy or her own cousin, will tell her he is involved with someone else? She's not a mind-reader. It's like knowing a child will go in the cookie jar and refusing to tell them that doing so is going to get them in huge trouble. Despite what the characters claim, Juliet did not steal Rob from Rose. Rob left Rose for Juliet just like Romeo did in the play and he is still a dickbag for it. Juliet is still the victim, not a man-stealer like the book tries to make her out to be.Do we really need more girl hate in YA? Do we really need more slut shaming of someone whose only crimes are being proactive, showing some skin in an outfit, or not sticking to outdated gender roles? I don't think we do. We need far less of it.To be fair, there was massive improvement in the last fifty pages. Depth I'd been searching for the entire time came out and it at least tries to stop demonizing Juliet. Unfortunately, the efforts will be in vain; between cultural views the book perpetuates and reflects in equal measure, previous characterization of Juliet, and the details of the rumors being spread about it, what is done to "redeem" her (in quotation marks because as I have explained, she didn't do anything wrong) will not be enough. If you're sick of girl hate and Taylor Swift Syndrome, stay far away. Save yourself the time and pain.