Title: Teach the Torches to Burn
Series: Remixed Classics: Book Seven
Author: Caleb Roehrig
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 372 Pages
Category: Teen/YA Romance, Historical Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
At a Glance: In Caleb Roehrig’s enormously sublime reimagining of the classic tale, the patriarchy is the villain, and it’s the forbidden friendship that develops between Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet that paves the way for their happy endings.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Verona, Italy. Seventeen-year-old aspiring artist Romeo dreams of a quiet life with someone who loves him just as he is. But as the heir to the Montague family, he is expected to give up his “womanly” artistic pursuits and uphold the family honor—particularly in their centuries-old blood feud with a rival family, the Capulets. Worse still, he is also expected to marry a well-bred girl approved by his parents and produce heirs. But the more Romeo is forced to mingle with eligible maidens, the harder it is to keep his deepest secret: He only feels attracted to other boys.
In an attempt to forget his troubles for just one night, Romeo joins his cousin in sneaking into a Capulet party. During a fateful encounter in the garden, he meets the kindest, most beautiful boy he’s ever met, and is shocked to learn he’s Valentine, the younger brother of one of his closest friends. He is even more shocked to discover that Valentine is just as enamored with Romeo as Romeo is with him.
So begins a tender romance that the boys must hide from their families and friends, each of them longing for a world where they could be together without fear. And as the conflict between the Montagues and Capulets escalates out of control, Romeo and Valentine find themselves in danger of losing each other forever—if not by society’s scorn, then by the edge of a blade.
Review: William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is, inarguably, one of his most famous plays. It is both comedy and tragedy as well as a love story between two teenagers whose lives are inauspiciously intertwined by “ancient animosities” between their families. In Caleb Roehrig’s enormously sublime reimagining of the classic tale, the patriarchy is the villain, and it’s the forbidden friendship that develops between Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet that paves the way for their happy endings.
Romeo’s and Juliet’s futures are being dictated by their fathers’ strict demands of unconditional submission. It is the crux of their individual dilemmas that what they each want cannot coexist with what is expected of them. They are, for all intents and purposes, hostages of the past and the future. Their present is one that’s fraught with intimidation and manipulation. It is when Romeo finds someone to fight for that Juliet becomes his greatest ally and a bold and brilliant adversary to the status quo.
Romeo has long known that he is not meant to take a wife. Meeting a beautiful stranger at the Capulet villa after sneaking into a masquerade ball is rife with an ethereal beauty. Roehrig weaves that spell amidst a dreamscape that is unspoiled by the reality surrounding them. When it’s revealed that the stranger isn’t a stranger at all, but Mercutio’s brother Valentine, the conflict is set in motion. It is, in fact, Juliet who is mistaken for Romeo’s infatuation, which wreaks both havoc and, ultimately, good fortune.
That Juliet is the hero of this story is not an overstatement of the facts, and I emphatically loved the twist Roehrig gave to his version of the play. She was indeed the master of her own destiny, and that it happened to coincide with a means to Romeo and Valentine’s happily ever after was the reward for the pain they all went through to get there. Friar Laurence, of course, also plays a role, as he does in the source material, and his gift for scheming and deception makes him an integral ally in the sleight of hand.
Caleb Roehrig is a consummate storyteller. I learned that firsthand when I had the good fortune of reading his YA Urban Fantasy The Fell of Dark. The kindness, compassion, and joy of found family makes Teach the Torches to Burn equally worth reading.
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