I picked this book up on a day that I felt a little slow. It was one of those days when whatever I picked up would have a strong effect on my mood, and so I wanted something I trusted to make me smile. I chose to start Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan, thinking that I could read a little at a time. I was completely wrong about that – just as with Been Here All Along, I couldn’t put this down and read it in one day.
Lena Newman is seventeen and starting her last year of high school. She isn’t entirely sure what she wants to do with her life, although she enjoys art. She has a boyfriend on the football team and a best friend she’s known forever. She immediately notices new girl Juliet James, and the story follows their relationship through the year. This is a beautifully happy story. Again, like Been Here All Along, this is an LGB story which acknowledges the difficulties that come with existing as a non-heterosexual person today, without those becoming the focus. It is a love story. I like to read romance for pure downtime, to relax, to make me happy, and this book filled that brief perfectly.
The characterisation of all the teenage characters is what made this book especially interesting for me. YA high-school set books often follow a similar format – what I think of as the Meg Cabot template for the worlds of fictional teenagers. While the usual roles around the central character are filled here – best friend, boyfriend, adult role model – there are also many more and more complicated ones created, and those habitual spaces are more complicated. Lacey is Lena’s best friend, but in many ways Juliet is as well. Scott and Lakyn come to be just as central to her social circle. Mr James comes to be a role model and friendly adult source of advice and support for Lena in a really beautiful way, but it is clear that he fills this space for other kids as well.
While perhaps it is more obvious than in a boy-girl story because the line between friendship and romance for Lena and Juliet is somehow more complicated, I really appreciated how good a friendship they have. All of the teenage characters made me chuckle with their intense commitment to sarcasm.
Spoilers this para
While it could easily have felt rushed, I also appreciated that the story extended into the protagonists’ adult life, and didn’t end with them as teenagers. It gives a little more robustness to the happy ending – not that I’m not glad when teenage lovebirds in YA end up together, propelling them further into their independent lives makes it feel more assured, as you end the story, that this relationship will last.
I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a YA romance, and especially looking for happy LGB fiction.
I accepted a free Kindle copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.