These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a 1920s retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in Shanghai, China. If that sentence doesn’t already say enough, this book also has a strange (possibly human created) plague, an enemies-to-lovers plot, many heart-breaking betrayals, AND a rich historical setting. The thing that clinched the deal for me, however, was the multiple POV way of writing. We don’t just see Juliette’s story or Roma’s (the star-crossed lovers) but also the story of side characters like Kathleen (Juliette’s cousin) or Benedikt and Marshall Seo (Roma’s cousin and friend respectively).
You can read the description of the book here but I’ll jump straight into my review. At first I was afraid this book was going for too much; gang rivalry, Romeo/Juliet, a mysterious plague that needs to be solved, and the backdrop of 1920s Shanghai with all its political history… not to mention the side characters who also have their own thing going on… But I was wrong. All of this is what made the plot complex and full of twists. The characters are also lovable with each their own rich inner thoughts and lives. As you can maybe tell from this being my third time of bringing it up, the most unique thing about this book, I found, was the setting. For starters, not many YA books being published in English are set in China or include any words in a foreign language. Chloe Gong not only managed to weave in many threads of Chinese culture to her story, but also political plots relating to the time period. As a history student, I found they added a lot to the story and as a reader, I was simply fascinated. On top of that, of course, the gang rivalry atmosphere added a lot of cloak-and-dagger feel to the story, which is something I love.
As usual, I have some criticisms and as usual, they are related to romance and are nit-picky. This may sound like my very own betrayal to this beautifully written book, but I found myself indifferent to Juliette and Roma’s romance side-plot. The backstory and enemies-to-lovers betrayal was written astoundingly well but I didn’t find much banter or friendship between them, which is what I usually look for. (Not to spoil anything, but I did find the type of romance I was looking for within one of the side plots so…it’s not all bad!) 🙂 Aside from that, I found the ending of These Violent Delights horrific (I say this lovingly) and will not rest easy until I have the second book in my hands. All in all, this book has a gorgeous setting, an amazing plot, and lovable characters. The only downside is a less than satisfactory ending. 9/10