Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories.
Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.
Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other… until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd — and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes — but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart… and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.
Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a story, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.
Because this story contains mature language and themes, including drug use, I was a little apprehensive at first. I didn’t want to prematurely judge the characters but I was afraid I would feel drown in the darker, brooding mood that overshadowed the fragile, sweet love of two teenagers.
From the blurb, it’s already hinted that Reed’s upbringing is very different from Julia’s. Even though they go to the same high school, they associate themselves with different crowds. Reed is often seen with those who smoke and take drugs. Julia is usually found running to the practice room playing the piano whenever she has a spare moment. But are they really two different types of people?
I like that for the most part, Reed and Julia are trying their best to hang onto hope and sanity. What they have is fragile. The families are hostile to one another. The pressure is suffocating, making them both question about their existence, their sense of self-worthiness. I feel so sad watching them struggle with what they can hang onto, and when they feel they have nothing left to treasure, it’s just the epitome of tragic woe.
To be honest, I never like Romeo and Juliet. I never feel much of a connection with the characters and I find the family hostility pointless. Reading Defy the Stars, however, helps me see the tragic love story in new light. The male protagonist may be weak and melodramatic but he does have a sweet friendly nature that is charming and attractive. In Defy the Stars, Reed is vulnerable. He thinks lowly of himself. Making poor decisions definitely wouldn’t save him from troubles but when he is thoughtful, he is so… lovable, considerate and swoon-worthy! I can’t help but feel sad and achy for all the crap he has to endure.
What can I say about Julia? When she is rational, she organizes her routine with plans and charts. In moments when she yearns for freedom, she goes a little wild, takes risk and lets her emotions take over. I personally find the essence of the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata really captures the nasty ups and downs of Julia’s emotional ride. You have to read the story to see what I mean but if you’d like to hear what the third movement sounds like, check out this video and if you’d like to hear all three movements of the sonata, click here.
Even though tragedy is not my usual cup of tea, I enjoyed reading the story and felt deeply moved by the ending. Defy the Stars is gripping, touching and heartbreaking. With an ending that is powerful and emotional, I doubt I’ll forget this story any time soon.