“She’s the uncommon baby left in a crib that consoles itself, that can stare for hours at the ceiling.”
This is not just another Romeo and Juliet knock off. It is gritty and sticky love, it isn’t sweet meanderings and tender moments. There is a moment early in the novel that exposes wealth and success, the way people feel about those born to such privilege. “People look at him like one of those Tibetan children picked out as a reincarnated lama. They think he knows the secret to life. They get mad when he doesn’t offer it up.” That, my friends is the burden of privilege for some. The heavy expectations of greatness, otherness… much like beauty is trailed by admiration and devotion when it’s a fluke of genetics. It sounds silly, feeling sorry for the wealthy, those born into opportunity, the best education with every connection to success while the rest of us rough it and have to fight, bite just to be noticed. Jamey is a Yallie and when he falls for Elise, worlds clash. They may as well be living on different planets. Elise is biracial with a real world upbringing, far more seedy- she is the after school special character Jamey’s people warn about. Poor, uneducated, trash… in other words, streetwise, tough as nails and living day to day with no solid plan to the future. The bright ‘future’ is for those with golden roads and money, with people like Jamey who people rally behind. Their differences are a seduction, isn’t that often the way of love? Wealth can be a lie as much as poverty, a chain- with it there seems you never really own your life. You are told who to keep away from, you are ‘special’ and anyone with less than you is inferior. Flip the coin and there is just as much mistrust and animosity towards the privileged, with their white glove existence, their ignorant distance from the hardships the rest of us encounter. Human beings divide innately, be it color, country, class- and dare anyone step outside that divide, there will be consequences even in our ‘oh so modern’ times.
Is she just his ‘bit of rough’? She hungers for him and hates herself for it. She is desperate for every experience, a sexual being, a girl who grew up in shelters with her mother- though protected as best as one could hope for. She and her people are on the bottom of the totem pole, more… under the bridge sort of folks while he is the creme of the crop. He is Yale, she is a drop out… his jobs were sunny summer ones, teaching tennis, working at yacht clubs and hers are for survival, not to ‘build character.’ The early dialogue between Jamey and his friend has a sneering distaste for ‘people of her ilk.’ Her raw existence, her energy and lack of pretense is what draws him to her despite any misgivings. “There is a baldness to Elise, a stripped-down sleekness like a car left for dead, it’s parts jacked and sold.” Jardine Libaire’s sentences put seedy images in the mind as much as fresh and pristine ones, I feel I can smell and taste each moment. Unlike other such novels, she doesn’t have to tell you the vast differences in their worlds, she can show you simply by mentioning tennis or a man in khaki’s touching himself. Sheltered vs exposed, dirty vs sterile- and yet Jamey and Elise are not caricatures. She may come off as brutal and tough, but inside she is as gooey and needy as any precious princess in Jamey’s prestigious school.
You know the story, his family and friends aren’t going to accept a ‘Perez’ in their midst. They don’t rub shoulders with people from the projects, not in social circles, maybe for charity but certainly not as a daughter in law! Heaven forbid! This is a young woman who doesn’t act like a lady, she has slept in subways and dumpster dived. She is uncouth, vulgar, she brings too much reality into the beautiful safe world his people inhabit. Beneath the seemingly charmed life, the cold controlled exterior he projects there simmers stranger desires and a hunger for more than safety. Elise stirs something explosive in him and the two will spiral out of control. Her mother, her life is beat up, beaten down, hard knock! Yet somehow, beyond explanation, she and Jamey meet each others’ needs, there can be no one else.
The family won’t have it, we all know from the first moment Jamey and Elise are together that there will be manipulation and severe consequences for their forbidden love. Torturous love, suffering, drugs, danger, life or death. Will they survive long enough to see where their fiery love spits them out? Star-Crossed love isn’t a promise for happiness. Love ins’t safe, it can be raw, insidious, infectious as any fatal disease. If only they could live in a bubble, but no one escapes the interference of loved ones who know what’s best. Could they push the two closer to destruction?
Put this on your to read shelf. It’s going to be a wait. This novel will be released in May 2017. I wanted to share so many quotes, but this is an arc. The writing is gorgeous, and were I to dive deeper into what happens it would have given away too much of the novel. This isn’t a ‘pretty’ look at love, it’s more honest and unflinching. Exactly what I needed to read, Romeo and Juliet brutalized.
Publication Date: May 30, 2017