These Violent Delights Book Review

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a Young Adult Romeo and Juliet fantasy retelling set in 1926 Shanghai, where Juliet is now “Juliette” and Chinese while Romeo is now “Roma” and Russian.They’re the heirs of rival gangs: Juliette for the Scarlet Gang and Roma for the White Flowers. When a monster and a madness threaten Shanghai, Roma and Juliette reluctantly team up to save their city. The resulting mystery and spicy character interactions made this book extremely fun to read, but also very painful.
The primary focus of this book is obviously the relationship between Juliette and Roma, which is so amazingly complicated and full of angst. Contrary to the original story, Juliette and Roma actually have a history and a previous falling out. The narrative slowly reveals the full story of their early interactions, keeping you reading excitedly till the end. The romance between the two characters is half broken hearts and half murderous intent, which made for honestly a really fun time. Individually, the two characters are so layered and interesting to follow.
The side characters in this book were actually really easy to fall in love with. Kathleen, Juliette’s cousin, is a loyal, kind hearted person that is just as easy to be invested in as the main characters. Marshal and Benedikt are really clever reiterations of the characters Mercutio and Benvolio, having the same vibes as the original characters and being so much more. The book switches between multiple perspectives, so loving almost every character made every perspective engaging and suspenseful.
Retellings of beloved classics have quite the challenge, needing to capture the spirit of the original while bringing a fresh take to the story. These Violent Delights does this perfectly, even surpassing the original in some aspects (the characters being more fleshed out is one). Honestly, the language and themes feel much more relevant and relatable to teens today, so maybe it should be taught in schools instead of Romeo and Juliet. The retelling also has literary merit, the prose being beautiful and important discussions occurring within the text, too. It’s the art of retelling at its finest.
The setting is one of the best aspects of this book. Chloe Gong created such a vibrant, tangible setting in 1926 Shanghai that one could read an entire book of juist her describing the city. The book also provides a brief history lesson on the setting and time period that is not usually taught much in schools. It’s still a fun book for sure, but there’s just enough background information to get the reader interested in learning more. It was also just great to see the classic story retold by a Chinese person!
Before you read it, you should know that the book has the following content warnings: blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse. If you are okay with all of those, then definitely check this book out if you need a heartbreaking, exciting rollercoaster of mystery, love, and death, or just a fun story to get lost in, These Violent Delights is the book for you!
Fun fact: The author was 21 when she published this last November, and the book got on the New York Times Bestsellers list!