Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories.
Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.
Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.
Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a plot, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.
Stephanie Parent is a YA author repped by Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major.
I had written a previous novel in verse and received feedback from editors that it wasn’t “edgy” or dramatic enough for today’s YA market, so I knew I needed to go further in my next novel. Someone in the publishing industry actually suggested the idea of a modern Romeo and Juliet story involving drug addiction. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but then I reread the play and was struck by how well the “poison” in the original play correlated with modern drug use. I was also frustrated with several recent YA books that I think portray Romeo and Juliet in an overly simple, one-sided way, and I wanted to explore Shakespeare’s work in a deeper way.
Who is your favorite character? Why?
I can’t choose between Julia and Reed! Both of them contain little bits of me, and as such I grew very attached to them while writing the novel. Like Julia, I can be a bit of a perfectionist and control freak, and like her, I was very involved in piano in high school—I actually attended a performing arts high school as a piano major, and I also studied at the Peabody Institute, the pre-college branch of the Peabody music conservatory Julia applies to in the book. However, while I’ve always loved music, I never had quite the dedication to piano that Julia does, and I never intended to study it in college or pursue it as a career. As for Reed, I relate to him in that I’ve struggled with depression and self-destructive tendencies, but I’m not nearly as much of a risk taker as Reed is, and I come from a much more stable home life!
I also have to mention that, even though he’s a much smaller character, I actually really like Marc, Reed’s friend. I think I know a lot about Marc that didn’t fit into the story and thus didn’t make it onto the page. He was definitely one of the lighter characters in the novel, so it was always a relief to write his lines/actions in the midst of all the drama
What is your favorite scene?
That’s a hard one! I think I’m going to go with Reed and Julia’s first kiss in the alley—it’s a somewhat idealized, darkly romantic moment that’s very innocent in a way. It’s kind of the one perfect, hopeful moment before everything gets more and more complicated…and I would have loved to get a kiss like that in high school!
Do you think the outcome would have been the same if the role of a music lover and druggie were to be switched in the characters?
That’s a very, very interesting question! It’s hard to get too specific without spoiling the ending, but yes, I think the outcome would very likely have been the same. And I would love to write that book someday!
Why did you decide to write in verse?
I’ve always really loved free verse novels, and since I had written a previous novel in verse and also took a number of poetry classes in grad school, I felt fairly comfortable with the form. I hoped the verse would help me stand out in the crowded YA market, and I also thought it was the best way to tell this story. It was particularly helpful in allowing me to convey Julia’s stream-of-consciousness thoughts and to portray the link between her dreams and waking life, and it was also a fun way to describe music. And the verse seemed especially appropriate for a retelling of Shakespeare, since he writes in blank verse and is so poetic himself. Obviously I can only aspire to and not match Shakespeare’s transcendent language!
Are there any fictional characters you are in love with right now?
I just finished The Devil’s Metal by Karina Halle, which is an amaaazing book (but, warning, it’s definitely NOT YA). The male lead in that book, Sage Knightly, is the ultimate sexy, tortured, bad boy rock star—yes, he’s really a rock star! And I can’t stop thinking about him!
How long did it take you to write this book?
About eight months from first to last sentence, and then a few more months of revising.
In Defy the Stars By Stephanie Parent, two teenagers from different worlds collide. Julie, a pianist ever since she was little and has been trying her hardest to be accepted to the top fine arts schools. Reed is someone who has been struggling to keep a roof over his head and uses drugs as an escape. They have both been going to the same high school but finally interact in their senior year. Two love struck teenagers trying to find a bridge where they can be happy without their families judging them. With each attempt their worlds seem to drift further apart but it only makes them try harder. Absolutely loved this book because of the hardships the characters overcame, their determination to be together. Stephanie Parent did an amazing job incorporating teenage life now a days, I caught myself smiling from the memories it brought up. I couldn’t help but think how much more Julia was sacrificing than Reed and wanting to punch him in the face. I actually want to punch everybody in the face for making everything difficult for the couple to be together. Then again, being in love is never a smooth journey.
Another Romeo and Juliet, but one you will never forget.