Review: Defy the Stars by Stephanie Parent

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Defy the Stars
Title: Defy the Stars
Author: Stephanie Parent
Date of Publication: July 30, 2012
Genre: contemporary YA, romance, verse

Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories. 

Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.

Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.

Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a story, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.

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"Just 'cause a feeling doesn't make sense, doesn't mean it's not right." -Reed

"I must be gone and live, or stay and die." -William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Defy the Stars was my first ever verse novel. Stephanie gave me an e-copy as a gift (Thank you so much Steph! <3) so I dived right into reading it. And boy, did I like it. :)

I love poems and I sometimes cry over reading one. So the idea of a verse novel sounded fantastic. Defy the Stars can be called a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Or at least it's inspired by it. I mean, it's quoted everywhere, they discuss it in class. Meta or not, Romeo and Juliet definitely plays a role in this novel. Now, let's get right to the plot.

Julia is the quintessential talented, young thing. She plays the piano and that's her life. She doesn't even think about boys like her friends. Until Reed came into the picture. Whereas Julia is the girl you want your parents to meet, Reed is absolutely the last person you'll introduce to them. He is nice but he does drugs. So basically he's the epitome of bad influence on perfect, little and rich Julia.

If you are allergic to sad reads, then stay away from this. I don't think it's a spoiler because the novel pretty much opened with it so I'm just gonna say it: Reed dies at the end. So if you don't want to spend reading a novel knowing the guy dies in the end, I do not suggest this book. But if you're like me who likes the journey as much as the end (maybe even more), go and read this!

Julia and Reed's love story's kind of an insta-love and while I normally stay away from those, I soldiered on because of the plot. I know that this novel will tackle issues such as drugs and family and it reminded me of Shattered Soul by Jennifer Snyder. I even told Stephanie that and I think she and Jennifer are now friends after reading each other's book. :P I gobble up realistic fiction, the grittier the better, so I had to read this.

I know almost to nothing about the piano (I can read and play notes but that's it) so I technically didn't understand any musical terms Julia says. But I'd like to applaud Stephanie for showing us that music is really vital in Julia's life. Not telling us, but showing us. Like how scientists use scientific terms in daily life (guilty as charged!), Julia speaks it. Thinks it. It consumes her thoughts, she speaks in musical terms and all that. Plus, all the mention of crescendos and mezzafortes made the novel sound beautiful.

I like the format but sometimes, the cuts in the verses are awkward, as if the author just needs to cut this thing down so she puts pauses and cuts the line. It's a minor gripe of mine because still, the poetic and unrushed storytelling had me reading page after page.

So why a three? I like the novel, I really do but it gradually lost some of that by the end. For one, I don't like how Julia seems willing to throw it all away for Reed. But I may be biased because I am a career-oriented person so it kinda pissed me off. Moreover, Reed's eternal spiral to drugs, sigh. I am a dreamer, a romantic, so I just thought that maybe with Julia in his life, he can change his ways. He can be the man he ought to be, can be. Reed is really a good person inside but he's been dealt with the wrong cards and he chose to play those cards badly. Plus, while I knew that Reed's gonna die and that I shouldn't get attached, I still got attached to him and I felt really really sad when he died. I didn't like HOW he died. It's just, sigh, both frustrating and heartbreaking.

Overall, I recommend this novel to anyone who wants to try reading a verse novel and for fans of realistic contemporary YA.

So once again, thank you to Stephanie for giving me a copy. Yey! :D

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