Back in the day I used to make quite a lot of comparisons between books and their TV or movie adaptations. Whereas others hate movie tie-ins, I actively seek them out in the store. I am odd that way. Today I would like to talk about the book/show Still Star-Crossed. I want to point out that this is a spoiler free comparison but other than that, I think the way I am doing this is fairly self-explanatory so let’s just jump in!
Still Star-Crossed follows the story of Verona’s most famous houses – the Capulets and Monatgues – AFTER Romeo and Juliet have found their tragic deaths. To unite the warring families, Prince Escalus, ruler of Verona, suggests a union between Rosaline of House Capulet and Benvolio of House Montague to finally bring peace upon the city. Neither one of them very inclined to marry the other, they have to work together to stop their wedding. An adventure with romantic entanglements, mystery, murder and betrayal ensues.
I want to start with the show, because that’s also what I saw first. It consists of 7 episodes, was produced by the Shondaland crew and aired on ABC this summer. I really, really enjoyed the show, which is why I was shocked when the network didn’t even give it a chance and canceled it after airing 2 episodes. They broadcast the rest of the season, but cut it short from the initial 9-episode-order to 7 and ultimately ended on a cliffhanger. To be frank, that makes me quite mad, because those two episodes they scratched could have perfectly concluded the story if you go from what happened in the book. There is no use in being bitter about it now, because ABC refuses to give any more statements on it, but that’s why I ultimately turned to the book. First more about the show though.
One of the first things I noticed was the variety of people of colour on the show and I am 100% here for that! The characters they played weren’t just servants either but princes, princesses and ladies – do you know how stupidly rare that is? I’ve been saying that historical fiction needs more diversity in its casting and I am glad to see Still Star-Crossed taking a step in the right direction. While history books unfortunately have been written by a lot of white people, they were by far not the only ones existing during that time and especially when it comes to fiction, you can simply do whatever you want. So, why not mix it up a little and make it less white? Give others a chance to see themselves represented. It worked for Hamilton, so it can work for pretty much anything.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the visuals or the costumes (they looked cheap to me but were apparently super expensive and not worth it for ABC), I did love the relationships between the characters and their growth. We didn’t get to see much of them, obviously, but the show had some really badass women, good and decent men and also a lot of crazy people. My personal favorite was the development of the relationship between Rosaline and Benvolio. They truly hated each other, then became friends and only after that foundation of mutual respect and trust was built and tested, there was this option of something more. I was just in love with that. Also, their banter was genius.
Needing to know what happened to my new OTP, I tracked down the book (not as easy as it sounds) and was determined to read it as soon as possible. Right as I started, I was immediately slowed down though. In true Shakespearean fashion, the language was way more flowery and old-timey, especially in terms of the dialogue. I am not saying that’s a bad thing, it is to be expected for this kind of story, but it does not always make for an easy reading time for me personally.
The major difference from the book to the show is the age of the characters (and that they all seemed very white). In the source material, they are only around 16 years old and therefore much more impulsive and superficial in their declarations of love and war. It makes sense for their age, but because I was so used to the TV representation, I missed the more mature versions of the characters.
There were a couple changes made to the story (e.g. in the book Romeo was initially pining for Rosaline, the show thankfully gives the princess a way bigger role, etc.), however, the main premise remains the same. I could easily follow the plot and compare it to the different episodes of the show, but that also meant that there were very few surprises left for me to discover. Ultimately I was glad I read it, because I got a very satisfying conclusion, but I think I might have liked the book better if I hadn’t seen the show first.
Fazit: 3.5/5 stars (click on cover to get redirected to Goodreads)
In the end, I would say that I prefer the show. It was more mature and less superficial, especially in terms of the romantic relationships. It gave a some characters that barely even appeared in the books a place to shine and definitely did a great job in making it even darker than the book. If I could change one thing, I would give the show a proper ending and make it an official mini-series.
Have you seen the show or read the book? Do you want to?