ARC Review and Author Interview: Anyone But You (A Modern Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)

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December 18, 2013 by Alice in Readerland

Anyone But YouTwo Italian restaurants, both alike in dignity, in Chicago’s Little Italy
where we lay our scene… After her family’s struggling eatery, Cap’s, falls
prey to another of the Monte clan’s vicious and destructive pranks,
sixteen-year-old Gigi Caputo finds herself courting danger during a
clandestine encounter with Roman Monte, the very boy whose relatives have
brought her family such grief. When the daughter and son of these two
warring factions fall for each other, their quest to mend this bitter family
feud turns out to be a recipe for disaster. Their story is irrevocably
linked to the summer of 1933, when two twelve-year-olds, Benny  and Nick,
hop the turnstile at the Chicago World’s Fair. While enjoying some of the fair’s legendary amusements, Nick has a love at first sight encounter with Stella, a young girl who unintentionally causes a lasting rift between the two boyhood pals. Deftly winding its way through past and present day, this modern take on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet has much to do with hate but more with love. By resolving their great-grandfathers ill-fated history, can Gigi and Roman prevent their own tragedy? Or will only their deaths bury their families strife?

Special thanks to the authors for giving me an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. Anyone But You will come out January 18th, 2014 from Merit Press.

Anyone But You is part of the Twisted Lit series, which modernizes and retells some of Shakespeare’s plays.  I love modernized retellings, so I was just sitting there reading this going “I wonder how they’re going to play out [insert scene from Romeo and Juliet here]” and having so much fun seeing how each of the character’s were fleshed out and everything was modernized. I mean, who would have thought that Romeo and Juliet could be from feuding restaurants? Where else can you read a Shakespeare retelling that opens with Romeo’s family pranking Juliet’s family’s restaurant on the night a food critic visits them? I think one of my favorite character transformations was Ty, because I don’t remember ever liking Tybalt the slightest in the play, but despite all his faults, Ty was made to be likeable in this version. Gigi talks about how he’s her favorite cousin, and despite all the teasing and not wanting Gigi to date the “competition,” Ty can also be very funny and supportive of Gigi. I also liked how Gigi’s dog is named Sampson, a nod to another character in Romeo and Juliet; how Paris was updated to an obnoxious Perry; and “Chef” was also a fun character instead of “Nurse.”

I also really liked how the historical story intertwined with Roman and Gigi’s story. We learn about how the feud got started in the first place, and we also have really fun historical elements, like the 1993 World’s Fair. I don’t want to say anything to spoil it, but the ending was great!

I enjoyed reading Anyone But You, and it inspired me to read another one of Amy and Kim’s Twisted Lit books, Tempestuous. Tempestuous is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, I just started it and am really liking it so far!

Interview with Authors Amy and Kim

Askew-Helmes author photo 1Left: Kim, Right: Amy

From the 1933 World’s Fair to the introduction of pizza, to racial prejudices, you added some interesting historical tidbits to Anyone But You! How much research (between the new historical aspects and the original Shakespearean tale) did you have to do for this book?

We did a ton of research on all of those things you just mentioned, and more! In some ways, it was our favorite aspect of writing the book, because it inspired us so much and really helped us add detail and color to our novel. Looking at old photographs and reading anecdotes about the history of Italian-Americans in Chicago also really helped transport us back in time as we were writing Benny and Nick’s story. Beyond researching all the historical elements, we did frequent etymology checks, to make sure any dialogue we used for the “back story” would have been appropriate to that era.

I loved how you modernized Romeo and Juliet with Roman and Gigi and their families! How did you come up with the idea of feuding restaurants? 

It could have been the fact that we were sitting at a restaurant when we first brainstormed! Initially, the idea was just a nod to the fact that Shakespeare’s play is set in Italy, but we realized rival restaurants were perfect stand-ins for the Montagues and Capulets. The restaurant setting gave us so many creative ways to let the story unravel. There also seems to be a certain mystique with big Italian families; the perception of them being so full of passion and having such big personalities. And you definitely need passion and personality if you’re going to retell Romeo and Juliet!

What’s something fun about writing a Shakespeare retelling? What is something challenging?

One of the fun things is having those “Eureka” moments when you come up with a creative spin on something that Shakespeare wrote. It’s remarkable how well-suited his works are for updating to modern times. The biggest challenge is always trying to honor the spirit of his plays while still creating something new. You really don’t want to mess it up!

What is one of your favorite retellings/adaptations (of anything)? 

We both love the movie Clueless, which is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. The heroine in that movie, Cher, actually greatly inspired us while writing one of our other novels in the series, Tempestuous (which is our take on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”)

Can you give us a hint about what you’re working on next?

A hint? Crazy times in the forest one “midsummer night.”

That sounds like so much fun! Thank you both for the interview!

Have you read one of the Twisted Lit books yet?

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15 thoughts on “ARC Review and Author Interview: Anyone But You (A Modern Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)

  1. Katie says:

    This sounds so fun! I can’t wait to read it. :)

  2. Leeeeeeeeah says:

    This book sounds amazing and I’m loving the snow!

  3. DoingDewey says:

    I love re-tellings too so I’m very excited about the Twisted Lit books :) Thanks for the great review!

  4. Annie says:

    I love reading modernized retellings, but I could never write one – I’m just not a Eureka! kind of person, lol. This sounds wonderfully clever. The synopsis is a little similar to that Shiri Appleby movie – Pizza My Heart.

  5. This book sounds so cute! I love retellings. Ooh and a Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling? That sounds even better (it’s my 2nd favorite Shakespearean play)!

  6. Sunny says:

    This sounds so cute! I love reading about big families and retellings! The pictures of the authors are cute as well :) Thanks for putting this on my radar!

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