If you’re looking for fun contemporary read with an emotional twang to hang out with down by the pool this summer, look no further than Shannon Lee Alexander’s Life After Juliet. It will take you back to school for a bit, but it will also give you a poignant tale about recovering from loss, learning to trust, and finding your tribe.
Before we get into the plot, we want to note that Life After Juliet is a companion book to Alexander’s debut novel, Love and Other Unknown Variables. However, it works great as a standalone and certainly doesn’t require you to read its sister book to get it. Main character Becca’s journey is her own, and it’s pretty damn delightful. But this review does contain plot spoilers for Love and Unknown Variables, so if you’d rather read that first, you can always buy it on Amazon and get devour it. Then come back and read this review!
Now, let’s get to it!
Becca Hanson isn’t faring well after the first major loss in her life. Charlotte was more than just her best friend; she was the only true friend Becca has ever known. Now that she’s gone and her beloved brother Charlie has moved away for college, Becca doesn’t feel like it’s safe to let anyone in again. So much like her target reading audience, Becca buries herself in reading. She devours book after book, making friends and having crushes between the pages rather than in real life. She isn’t willing to leave the past or consider her potential future… until her junior year English class gets in the way, that is.
First, Becca is partnered with dramatic queen bee Darby for her literary critiques in class, much to Darby’s annoyance. Despite her best efforts to remain invisible, she also catches the attention of Max Herrara, a clever classmate who has his own rivalry with Darby in the drama club. When Max encourages her to join the tech crew and Becca discovers the club will be putting on Charlotte’s favorite play, how can she possibly resist? In joining, can she move on to a life with new friends and future possibilities? Does she even want to?
Becca’s hurt is deep and emotionally scarring. Her grief had the potential to become overwhelming, but Shannon Lee Alexander balances her out nicely with fresh, light teenage fun and discovery throughout the novel. She’s also got a slew of bright secondary characters to help along the way. Max is a charming love interest who understands Becca’s sense of loss and wants to help her see past it. He’s the quiet artist type, patient and gentle, but he’s got a sense of humor. Their romance is slowly developed and quite innocent. At times, we wished it moved a little faster and was a little more developed, but the carefulness makes the book work for young YA readers (perhaps just leveling up from Middle Grade) as well.
Other secondary characters worth noting include Darby, with whom Becca forms a quirky love-hate relationship that fuels both characters to push past their strictly internalized boundaries, and Vic, Max’s best friend and the major comic relief factor. And if you know Love And Other Unknown Variables, have no fear– Charlie still comes around for some major cameos that are practically love letters to sibling bonds. All the relationships Becca forms have a strange urgency to them, as if she’ll never be able to make friends again if she refuses to claim this bonds now. Sometimes that worked for us, sometimes it didn’t. But either way, we enjoyed the other characters quite a bit.
The feels are definitely there in Life After Juliet (though perhaps not always as strongly as we’d like them to be in some cases) as one considers life after loss, but the tale is really about a teen girl blossoming forward through her tragedy, giving it an ultimately positive vibe. If you like sweet contemporary stories, this novel will leave you with hope plus lots of warm and fuzzies.
RATING: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
Life After Juliet is currently on sale. Order it now on Amazon.
Becca Hanson was never able to make sense of the real world. When her best friend Charlotte died, she gave up on it altogether. Fortunately, Becca can count on her books to escape—to other times, other places, other people…
Until she meets Max Herrera. He’s experienced loss, too, and his gorgeous, dark eyes see Becca the way no one else in school can.
As it turns out, kissing is a lot better in real life than on a page. But love and life are a lot more complicated in the real world…and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed.
The companion novel to Love and Other Unknown Variables is an exploration of loss and regret, of kissing and love, and most importantly, a celebration of hope and discovering a life worth living again.