“Then I defy you, stars!” – Romeo
Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, and yet it found its way into both LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES and LIFE AFTER JULIET. There’s a funny T-shirt I’ve seen on Etsy that reads, “I think Romeo and Juliet could have handled the whole situation better.” That pretty much sums up how I feel about the play.
I’ve always thought it was such a shame that Romeo and Juliet felt so controlled by their fates that death felt like their only choice. The play ended on a hopeless note. I never believed that they had died for a greater cause—to stop their families from feuding. It felt like a cheat, and I don’t like authorial cheats.
Throughout the whole play, Shakespeare is trying to get these two crazy lovebirds together for the happily-ever-after, and then boom! Death. And more Death (and throw in a few more deaths for good measure). And I’m supposed to nod along and say, “Well, at least the Capulets and Montagues learned their lessons.”
That’s not what I want.
I’ve spent years contemplating Romeo and Juliet’s actions. When I try to make sense of their deaths the best I can come up with is a dim understanding that sometimes love isn’t about the happily-ever-after. Sometimes, it has to be about the happily-ever-now.
That was certainly a lesson I wanted Charlie Hanson to experience in LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES. Charlie lived his life with his head stuck in the future. His every day decisions were made based on what would make his future better. He very rarely considered the fact that by putting off his life for the future, he was missing out on some important living (and loving) he needed to do in the now.
Becca Hanson, in LIFE AFTER JULIET, spends too much of her time lost in the imaginary worlds of books. She’s not focusing on any aspect of her own life—past, present, or future! She’s living purely to escape from her real life. She aches to be Real, to be part of the world around her, but she’s afraid. Like Juliet, Becca believes there’s nothing left in the Real world for her after losing Charlotte. She’s convinced there is no happily-ever-now or-after for her.
Shakespeare wrote at a time when people believed very firmly that fate was at the helm and people were but puppets to its whims. Romeo and Juliet certainly believed that about their own lives. There are numerous references throughout the play to fate ruling them. Even in the instant that Romeo shouts, “Then I defy you, stars,” he is giving in to fate, giving it exactly what it wants, his life.
In writing LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES and LIFE AFTER JULIET, I tried to be sure that Charlie and Becca were aware of their own will. I tried to be sure they understood that they were in charge of their own fates. There are many things in life that we can’t control, like freak accidents, natural disasters, and cancer, too. But we are always in control of our own choices in life. I hope that readers take away that understanding from both of these books. I hope that readers, like Charlie and Becca, find the will to defy the stars and find their own happily-ever whenever they choose.
About Shannon Lee Alexander
Shannon Lee Alexander is a wife and mother (of two kids and one yellow terrier named Harriet Potter). She is passionate about coffee, books, and cancer research. She spent most of her time in high school hiding out in the theater with the drammies and techies. Math still makes her break out in a sweat. She currently lives in Indianapolis with her family.
Becca Hanson is a reader-a voracious reader. And with all those fictional friends, she never had time for real ones. Plus real ones come with uncontrollable quirks, like constantly filling a room with song, drawing on any available surface, and worst of all, dying. Real friends are more trouble than they’re worth. Since her best-and only-real friend Charlotte’s death six months before, Becca has returned to a life of books in order to distance herself from heartache and constant loneliness as her junior year at Sandstone High begins.
When a class project forces her into the Drama Club, she attracts the attention of not one, but TWO guys involved in the production, onstage and off. Meanwhile, she’s still dealing with the grief of Charlotte’s death–the fact that Charlie is away at MIT–and that she finally has to build a life for herself on her own terms. Ultimately she learns more about who she is, what she wants, how she feels–and how to find what she’s looking for. (And while she isn’t sure what comes next, she’s pretty sure there’ll be more kissing involved.)
Young Adult [Entangled Teen, On Sale: July 5, 2016, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781633753235 / eISBN: 9781633753242]