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Review of Ronit & Jamil

Ronit & Jamil
by Pamela L. Laskin
High School    Tegen/HarperCollins    183 pp.
2/17    978-0-06-245854-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-245855-1    $9.89

This Romeo and Juliet–inspired story unfolds in five acts of verse, swapping the setting of Renaissance-era Italy with present-day Israel. Teenagers Ronit (an Israeli girl) and Jamil (a Palestinian boy) are star-crossed lovers who meet while accompanying their fathers (a Jewish pharmacist and Muslim doctor, respectively) to a clinic in East Jerusalem. First-person poems in a variety of forms convey characters’ curiosity, confusion, and desires (“so I know / she thinks of me / as a man / who would lift her skirt / and love her, / not the foolish boy / my Abi / thinks I am”). Abrupt shifts in action highlight the immediacy — and irrationality — of the characters’ affections. An unexpectedly optimistic ending deviates from Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. Supplementary information (provided through an introduction, footnotes, and a reader’s note) offers context, including language translations, additional story details, and references to other works. These elements can both enrich and distract, calling attention to the author’s hand. Poem titles from the two lead characters are often identical, and the protagonists have strikingly similar voices, inviting — if not requiring — close reading. The small, handheld trim size reinforces the story’s intimate feel.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library in Illinois.

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