When You Were Mine (also known as The Book I Want to Keep Under My Pillow Forever)

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.     Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy…and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.     Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends…(Goodreads)

You guys, I seriously can’t tell you enough how much I love this book. It’s definitely one of my favorites this year.  Just thinking about it now makes my heart ache in all the right ways.

I’ve always loved Romeo & Juliet even though yes, it’s a total I-just-met-you-and-now-we’re-madly-in-love kind of story.  It’s so beautiful and romantic and utterly tragic.  When You Were Mine explores another perspective, that of Rosaline,  the girl who Romeo—that fickle, fickle boy—claims to be desperately in love with at the start of the play.

Sigh (a big one).

The Story:

Rosaline and Rob are best friends and next-door neighbors. They’ve grown up together.  Over the summer, while Rob’s been away, something has changed between them–something good. Something swoony. Something that you can’t quite put your finger on.   It draws them together and it’s sweet and understated and romantic, as if it’s always been there, as if Rob has always wanted to kiss Rosaline and as if she’s always wanted to kiss him back. And when it happens it feels so right–until it isn’t.

Rosaline’s cousin,  Juliet,  comes to town after a ten year absence.  Rob, Juliet and Rosaline all used to play together as children until a falling out caused Juliet’s family to leave.  Oddly enough, when Juliet returns, she has it in for Rosaline.  And man, oh man, when she sets her sights on Rob in what feels like mere moments after Rosaline finally has him, Rob falls hard.

Ugh! It hurts just thinking about it.

Rosaline is devastated, not only at losing Rob in a romantic sense, but in losing her best friend.  He and Juliet share an all-consuming, obsessive kind of love and Rosaline can’t stand to be near him.  She secretly hopes that he’ll see his mistake and come running back to her because, after all, they’re meant to be.  And Juliet knows this. She knows the pain she’s caused Rosaline and she revels in it.

Slowly, secrets about their family histories come out and Juliet and Rob both begin to act unstable.  At times they seem desperately in love and at times their relationships seems to suffer.  The past is devastating to both of them, but as we all know, their future is far worse.

My Take:

I absolutely loved this book.  It’s such a fresh take on a classic story and somehow, by introducing Rosaline’s perspective, Serle managed to make a tragic story all the more rich and painfully beautiful. It blew me away.  Her writing is perfect, with humor and hurt woven around characters who feel as real as you and me.  Rosaline is a beautiful protagonist. Her heartbreak felt excruciating (because, to some degree, we’ve all been there) and her willingness to love Rob and to hope for his return put me in a place where, for the first time, I was actually rooting against Romeo and Juliet (or in this case Rob and Juliet).  I never thought I’d see the day!

I loved Rob despite the fact that his actions disappointed me.  Serle was able to convey such swoon in those first enchanting moments between him and Rosaline and in the sweet flashbacks of their life together, while at the same time she managed to show a flawed young man who was in pain and conflicted over the choices he’d made.  From this angle it’s so difficult to sympathize with the love shared between Rob and Juliet.  When the story begins, it feels like he and Rosaline are teetering on the edge of something breathtaking and amazing and then Juliet swoops in and steals it.  Rob goes willingly, but he always seems to struggle with losing Rosaline.  That endeared him to me all the more.

I know Romeo & Juliet well and yet I’d never considered the fact that there was an entire facet of the story just waiting to unfold.  And this is how you know it’s good: even though I knew the end of the story, even though I knew the outcome would be tragic, I couldn’t put this book down.  I still hoped and I still willed it to be different and I still sobbed in the aftermath.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 Loved it.

PS. You do not have to be a fan of Romeo & Juliet to enjoy this one. If you know the basic idea, it adds to the experience, but this is a good book either way.


Serle has a fantastic playlist on her website.  You should check it out.

The Way I See It:

Hollywood already has their own idea’s about casting the film, (although it frightens me that they’re calling this a comedy).  I think I like their choices, mostly because I can’t come up with any of my own. It’s so hard!

Thank you to Simon Pulse for sending me a copy When You Were Mine

The book is in stores on May 1.

9 thoughts on “When You Were Mine (also known as The Book I Want to Keep Under My Pillow Forever)

  1. This book sounds really interesting. i’m also a big Romeo and Juliet fan (mainly because the movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes came out when i was in junior high and i was OBSESSED with it) but i’ve never even thought about it from Rosaline’s perspective. It sounds like a good read.

    • I love that R&J version so much! I’d never thought about it from Rosaline’s side either and then once I was in the book I HATED Juliet. It was good. Plus, I think she just did such a good job at describing that very first heartbreak. The situation could be totally different for any one of us, but somehow those feelings resonated so much with me because, to some degree, we’ve all felt that pain.

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