Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book review - Heart or Mind

Title: Heart or Mind
Author: Patrick Jones
Genre: romance/retelling
Similar books: Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian
                     Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper
More troubling than enjoyable

Summary (provided by publisher): Do the crime, do the time behind bars. But once you've been in, it can be tough to stay out.
Tension between African Americans and Somalis at Rodney's high school erupts into a food fight that turns into a riot. In the midst of the violence, Rodney helps a Somali classmate to safety. Soon Rodney and Jawahir fall for each other. Against the pleas of their families and friends, they can't help but follow their hearts.
As groups on both sides of the fight harbor lingering resentment, Rodney and Jawahir are caught in the middle. Rodney is determined to avoid trouble, having served a previous stint at the County Home School. But in a world where hate seems to rule, can Rodney and Jawahir keep their flame of love alive? Or will their relationship ignite a fire that destroys all in its path?  

My opinion: Romeo and Juliet gets retold all the time. Once you recognize that base story, you know where the current plot is going. I really thought Jones was going to head in a more positive direction for a while there, once Rodney's friends begin to accept his relationship with Jawari. And the ending of this book is actually far more depressing than the original story. Shakespeare's characters die because of a misunderstanding and their deaths are displayed as a tragedy that brings understanding to their families. In Jones' story, they actually try to unite their groups in life and when they can't see a way to live peacefully in their community decide there is nowhere they will be accepted and so decide to kill themselves. Perhaps we're meant to view this as romantic. I found it heartless and short-sighted. I had some real problems with some of the plot points. The principal's plan to unite the school through a school dance? Jawari's decision to throw away her religious conviction (in spite of being portrayed as quite devout previously) for love, even going so far as to state explicitly "love was more important than her religion"? I find that very hard to believe. And the time frame is too brief. This level of devotion would be far more believable over a period of months rather than days.

More information: Heart or Mind releases March 1.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

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