Izzy & Tristan – Shannon Dunlap
This isn’t a novel, it’s a romance.
This book was first brought to my attention because of the publisher tweeting about everyone getting their proof copies and I had that FOMO feeling that you get sometimes when you watch other people having a good time. So I added it to my TBR and decided I’d grab a copy of it when I saw it and then it was added to NetGalley, well, I couldn’t just click away could I?
Izzy, a practical-minded teen who intends to become a doctor, isn’t happy about her recent move from the Lower East Side across the river to Brooklyn. She feels distanced from her family, especially her increasingly incomprehensible twin brother, as well as her new neighbourhood.
And then she meets Tristan.
Tristan is a chess prodigy who lives with his aunt and looks up to his cousin, Marcus. He and Izzy meet one moonlit night, and together they tumble into a story as old and unstoppable as love itself.
In debut author Shannon Dunlap’s capable hands, the romance that has enthralled for 800 years is spun new. Told from several points of view, this is a love story for the ages and a love story for this very moment. This fast-paced novel is at once a gripping tale of first love and a sprawling epic about the bonds that tie us together and pull us apart and the different cultures and tensions that fill the contemporary American landscape.
This is a modern-day retelling of the old Tristan and Isolde story, where we have teenagers in Brooklyn, but there are still references to knights and queens because there is a chess element. To be honest, I’ve never read/watched any of the previous versions of this story, it’s just one of those things that I seem to know the gist of because it’s so ingrained in Western Culture. Because of that, this didn’t really hold too many surprises, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. In this more contemporary setting, Izzy is a bright white girl who finds herself moved out of her well to do neighbourhood and expensive school to a much rougher street in Brooklyn. Tristan is a mixed race chess prodigy with a cousin who is on the wrong side of the law. While this created an interesting dynamic in terms of different cultures coming together and Izzy becoming more aware of her privilege I did feel like some of the comments on race and the Black Lives Matter movement were added in almost as an afterthought and I’m, not really sure how I feel about it.
There were a couple of elements of this that I’m not sure translated well into the modern day. There’s a moment of deception that was a bit shaky in terms of consent that was never really discussed or dealt with and with Me Too and conversations around consent being had more frequently I’m not sure how this sat with me. There’s also a character that seems to have a complete mental breakdown but this isn’t really dealt with either. I don’t know if this is something that features in the original or not, but again… I don’t know…
None of that is to say that this isn’t a perfectly enjoyable romance. This knowns it’s an insta-love and it doesn’t shy away from that or try to dress it up as anything else, sometimes you just need a jolly good romance, you know? And God, the romance! Yes Izzy and Tristan have a lightning bolt, love at first sight moment, but the way they are with each other is just so cute I can’t help it. I ship it. Hard. The narration of this is really wonderful, almost poetic in places, especially Izzy’s chapter.
So yeah, a book with a lot going for it that also made me feel things. Also, I adore this quote so much we’re ending as we began (much like this book I guess…)
This isn’t a novel, it’s a romance.