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29 Jul 2021

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

A retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette set in 1920s Shanghai, including an enemies -to friends - to lovers - to enemies relationship, LGBTQIA+ rep and social commentary around colonialism and prejudices, this is a Young Adult novel with enough depth to capture adult readers as well. Plus, a strange river monster.


Juliet Cai has returned to Shanghai after years living in the US, and as the daughter and heir of the Scarlet Gang, she has earned a fierce reputation - and has left her love for Roma Montagov, heir of the rival gang the White Flowers, well and truly behind. But with a strange monster wreaking havoc and killing members of the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers without mercy, Juliet and her cousin Kathleen must join forces with the enemy - Roma and his fellow White Flower members, Marshall and Benedikt.

Will they be able to put aside their history of bloodshed and betrayal in time to save their people?

While the cover draws one in initially, the plot grips tight and relentlessly pushes forwards. Confusion and mayhem reigns as Juliet grapples with her own identity, as a Chinese teenager caught between two different worlds, American and Chinese, colonialism and nationalism, and her past pain warring with her need to protect her people, regardless of who she must work with.

While at times the novel struggles with a heavy-handed 'Tell not show' narrative around the themes in the book, not always trusting in the reader to infer themes and messages themselves, this is balanced with an engaging cast of characters, and plenty of action. And, being based on Romeo and Juliet, is there any hint of romance rediscovered? Read and find out.