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"These Violent Delights" by Chloe Gong reviewed by Kriya (Grade 10)

An absolute Delight to read.

Everyone knows the romance of the iconic star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. And then, of course, everyone is reminded by that one annoying friend of theirs how tragic their happily ever after was. But 22-year-old recent UPenn graduate Chloe Gong takes the Shakespeare classic and sets the characters of Romeo and Juliet in a richly-imagined 1920s Shanghai, where two gangs in a long-standing feud struggle for power in the middle of a new crisis - a mysterious epidemic causing members from both gangs to succumb to insanity and rip their own throats out. Caught up in the middle of it all are our two main characters, Juliette Cai, an eighteen-year-old Chinese woman who’s just gotten back from her stay in America to fulfill her duties as the heir to the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, the Russian heir to the White Flowers. Here’s the twist (as if there weren’t already so many): Juliette and Roma have already had their epic romance, and it ended in total and fatal betrayal for both gangs. Now, they have no choice but to work together to solve the mystery of this curious contagion so that both of their gangs don’t suffer any more losses than they already have.

These Violent Delights has some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve read, starting off strong with the emphatic first line, “In glittering Shanghai, a monster awakens.” Gong’s descriptions of Shanghai glisten like emeralds, but are clear as crystal and easy to understand. She is able to involve so many elements and blur the lines of so many genres in just 449 pages, including mystery, romance, coming-of-age, and even a little bit of sci-fi! The sequel to TVE, titled Our Violent Ends, comes out November 2021.

I’d recommend this novel to any reader that loves English class, but (although they would deny it) got really bored reading Romeo and Juliet in class… Even though These Violent Delights is set nearly one hundred years in the past, it’s still a timelessly enjoyable YA read, and quite frankly, a new classic in its genre. Viewers of the TV show Once Upon a Time will also adore this novel, since they both combine reimagined classic stories and modernized characters. This novel is a must-read for anyone and everyone, and I couldn’t recommend it more. Fall in love with the mesmerizing Shanghai and its inhabitants in Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights!

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