Saturday, January 11, 2014

Anyone But You by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

Published: January 18th, 2014
Publisher: Merit Press
Copy: From authors via Netgalley
These violent delights have violent ends...

Gigi Caputo is fed up. A vicious act of vandalism has dealt another blow to her family's proud pizza heritage, and the Montes--owners of a rival Italian restaurant--are clearly to blame. The hostility goes far beyond bragging rights for best pizza in Chicago. The Montes have been bent on destroying Cap's for four generations. Even if it means putting herself in harm's way, Gigi's determined to get to the bottom of the feud. Instead, in a secret encounter with Roman Monte, the very boy whose relatives have brought her family such grief, she finds both danger and love at first sight. If the daughter and son of these two warring families fall for each other, can it be anything but a recipe for disaster? Slowly, Gigi and Roman learn that their story is fatefully linked to the summer of 1933, when two twelve-year-olds, Benny and Nick, hop the turnstile at the Chicago World's Fair. The most stunning wonder of the fair is Stella, who innocently causes a lasting rift between the two boyhood. Wending its way through past and present day, this modern take on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is bittersweet, funny, and intensely exciting. It's classic romance--a tale of hate and the only force that can ever defeat it: love.

Kim Askew  and Amy Helmes have returned with the newest entry in their Twisted Lit series, Anyone But You.  This time around they are tackling the quintessential tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet.

Set in contemporary Chicago, Anyone But You outlines the story of teens Gigi and Roman as they meet and fall in love, defying the boundaries of their decades old family feud.  Unfortunately, the story does not convey the depth of tragedy that we have come to expect from a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but that's not to say that it isn't a great read on its own. 

One of the things that has always frustrated me about the original, is that we never know why the Montagues and Capulets are feuding.  Helmes and Askew have solved that problem for us this time by outlining a wonderful back story that fills in all those blanks.  I particularly enjoyed this look back to a Chicago at the time of the World's Fair and around the war.  Actually, I think this part of the story was more tragic than the modern part.

In present day Chicago, all of the requisite characters are represented, with my favourite being Chef, a big burly, Italian cook with a heart of gold, who takes the place of Nurse. Several cousins flit in and out of the picture and tempers are hot, if somewhat stereotypically Italian, and fights ensue.  Without giving away too much of the modern plot, this is where the tragedy fell short for me. Still, it was slightly more realistic for present time, so for me was ultimately forgivable.

In a nutshell,  this was a thoroughly enjoyable contemporary romance, that fell just a little short of being a tragic retelling.  Worth reading?  Absolutely!   I look forward to seeing what's up next for these two talented authors.

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