Our guest editor this month is Chloe Gong, the debut author of the dramatic Romeo and Juliet retelling, These Violent Delights. Her book reimagines the classic tragedy of the Capulets and the Montagues and places the feuding families at odds in 1920s Shanghai.
We asked Chloe to share the books that influenced her as she wrote These Violent Delights. Here are her picks.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I read this book for the first time before I started writing, then a second time after I started fiddling with my own stories. It was on that re-read that I absorbed the story so deeply I think I stared at a wall for half an hour even though I knew how it was going to end.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone has such a visceral sense of setting, paired with a protagonist who has such a visceral sense of want. Karou doesn’t know anything about herself, but when she meets an angel, Akiva, she soon finds there’s much more to her past than she realizes. To this day, this trilogy holds up as the highest level of atmospheric storytelling I could only hope to one day achieve.
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
This is one of my most favorite “quiet books”. It hovers in the fabulism/contemporary realm, where for the month of October, Cara’s entire family becomes strangely accident-prone, which caused many deaths within the family in the past. The Accident Season drips with atmosphere, less in the magical sense like fantasies do, but more in how you can feel the oppressive weight of familial secrets and buried pasts rising through the pages as the characters desperately try to shove it back down again. The story is haunting and beautiful, and it really solidified my love for stories that aim to mean something.
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Abandon—and all of Meg Cabot’s books, to be honest—sewed in my love for drama and a slowburn romance. Meg Cabot is the queen of slowburn, and with this book being a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth with the new angle of teen angst and forbidden love, it’s a given that readers have to suffer a little. When Pierce drowns and ends up in the Underworld, she escapes its ruler… only to be haunted by him in the living world again in a cat-and-mouse game. It’s about the back and forth! It’s about being torn between knowing what you should want and what you really want!
Reboot by Amy Tintera
We all remember the dystopian era, right? I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but one of the primary characteristics of that sub-genre was the girl who got caught up in a revolt she didn’t want, pushed forward as a champion not for her talent, but because she just so happened to be in the right place at the right time.
So when I stumbled onto Reboot at my school library, I was almost surprised by the main character being of a different archetype. Wren is the deadliest soldier in the Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation, but when she starts to disobey, all hell breaks loose. It was with this book that I saw how brilliant unapologetic, kickbutt female characters were. The perfect role model, if you ask me.
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
When the books in the Burn for Burn trilogy were coming out, I was on the phone with my middle school best friend for hours on end trying to predict what would happen in the next one. Kat, Lillia, and Mary each have someone they want to get revenge on, and while they can’t do anything alone, they have a perfect plan together. Once again, it’s about the drama, it’s about the intrigue, it’s about teenage girls who are a little wicked and a little rough around the edges tearing lives apart. If you trace the origins of my love for characters who circle viciously around each other—one small push away from eruption—it would probably come back to this book.
Read our full interview with Chloe Gong here.