Saving Juliet, by Suzanne Selfors (Walker and Company, 2008, 242pp, ages 10 (-ish) and up).
Ever since she was old enough to be trusted not to run off the stage screaming (that is, at three years old), Mimi has been thrust into the Shakespearean plays put on at her family's famous theater. No one ever asked if she wants to act--her mother, struggling to keep the theatre going after her father's death, assumes that the theater is Mimi's destiny. And her mother needs the money from Mimi's trust fund to keep things afloat.
So now Mimi is Juliet, playing opposite teen music star Troy Summer, and feeling so sick with stage fright that she pukes on stage. Escaping into the snowy night of Manhattan, she wishes she were somewhere else, perhaps Verona, and as a small vial of the ashes from one of Shakespeare's quills breaks, and the ash flies into her face, that's where she finds herself. And once there, meeting the real Juliet, a fun and freckle-faced girl, she vows to save her from the trap that Shakespeare wrote her into, a trap that mirrors her own circumstances. Juliet is about to be married off to an old and repellent man in order to bring money into the family. She hasn't met Romeo, yet...
Thrust willy-nilly into a world of feuding Capulets and Montagues, Mimi struggles with the harsh realities of Renaissance Italy, falls hard for Benvolio (so did I, when I watched the Zephirelli movie when I was 13), and scrambles to keep herself safe (and, of course, to save Juliet). Things become more complicated when Mimi finds Troy, wounded by the Capulet bad boy Tybalt, struggling to keep Friar Laurence from applying leaches to his leg.
Will Mimi be able to change Shakespeare's story, and the story of her own life? Is Benvolio the boy of her dreams, or is there more to Troy than meets the eye? And what of Juliet and her Romeo?
All right, maybe this isn't exactly a genuine time travel book. Mimi herself says, at one point, "I had already established that this was not insanity or a dream. Clearly I was not the victim of time travel. Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters." But I'm just going to gloss over that little detail. There's enough here about the Verona of four hundred-ish years ago for this book to count, in my opinion. Even though Mimi is rather relieved that the fictional folk of Verona are comfortable with modern American English...
In short, a fun and clever book!
There's another review at Rightbook, or you can watch a book trailer here at YA Books and More!
This is my first Official Review of a book nominated for the Cybils. If you haven't yet nominated your own favorites, head over and do so before Oct. 15. I have a list here of what's been nominated in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.