FICTION

These Violent Delights

S. & S./Simon Pulse. Nov. 2020. 464p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534457690.
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Gr 8 Up–Insta-love reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet occurred four years before this story begins, leaving Juliette and Roma the bitterest of exes. Juliette Cai, daughter and heir to Lord Cai of the Scarlet Gang, has returned from New York to find Shanghai drastically changed from the city she and Roma talked about ruling. Foreigners have taken chunks of the city, leaving the Russian White Flowers—ruled by the Montagovs—and the Scarlets to fight over what’s left. Now an infectious madness spreads through both gangs, leaving its victims to claw their own throats out. When Roma’s little sister Alisa is infected, he teams up with Juliette to hunt down the cause and the cure. The cast of characters is diverse in ethnicities and identities. Roma and his cousin Benedikt are white, and their fellow White Flower Marshall Seo is Korean and queer. Juliette and her twin cousins Kathleen and Rosalind are Chinese; Kathleen is a trans woman. Gong combines star-crossed lovers with a gripping mystery, violent blood feud, and the glamour of 1926 Shanghai, turning the familiar play into a story readers have never seen before. Shakespeare fans will feel rewarded by parallels in the retelling, but Gong’s writing has a sharp wit and offers new, thrilling stakes for all her readers.
VERDICT Gong’s debut is not to be missed. With a dazzling setting, a mysterious series of murders, and diverse, unapologetically criminal characters, this novel ranks with the greatest YA retellings.

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