These Violent Delights

Written by Chloe Gong
Review by Melissa Warren

Gross, violent, beautiful, and poetic, Chloe Gong’s reimagined tale of Shakespeare’s two star-crossed lovers features the city of Shanghai in the 1920s as a central character. Bankers, foreigners, gangsters, and simmering political unrest fill the city’s streets. Fittingly, Gong opens her tale with gangsters bleeding to death in those streets but not by own their hands. An interloper, a foreign menace, leaves them to writhe near the Huangpu River.

As the body count rises, Gong’s heroine, eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, is tasked with solving these murders. A trained killer, she makes Thomas Shelby of Peaky Blinders look like a timid schoolboy. Like the BBC hit, this novel captures the grit, classism, and racism that defines gangster tales of this era. It frames life as a ruthless criminal as a choice between damnation or starvation. As the heir to the Scarlet gang, Juliette embodies that choice in a myriad of ways. Her ancient homeland has been carved into slices by powerful outsiders. Among her pin curls, flapper dress, and high heels, she conceals guns and knives ready to gut anyone who threatens her people and her city.

The story of Juliet and Romeo is not a tale of innocent love. It is a tale of how hate steals innocence and, more importantly, life. Once hate and greed are set loose on the streets, they take on a life of their own, tearing down every living thing in their path. The two heirs of these powerful families come together to shield their city from destruction. This novel is a perfect young adult entry point into the original tragedy or a fast-paced, bloody read for anyone seeking adventure.