These Violent Delights

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
These Violent Delights Book Poster Image
Epic, engaging historical fantasy reboots Romeo and Juliet.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Words in Mandarin and Russian, some with context clues, may inspire readers look them up. The setting gives readers a sense of the political and social atmosphere in Shanghai at the time when communism was gaining influence and popularity, and about life in Shanghai in the mid-1920s in general.

Positive Messages

The story is to be continued, so overall takeaways may change, but so far a major theme is that things aren't black and white, and that there's often more than one truth behind people, their motives, and events. The other thing that's clear so far is that violence begets violence. Especially in the world of rival gangs, violence keeps escalating and getting worse every time one side retaliates against the other. Pride and a misplaced sense of honor often keep either side from making a move toward peace.

Positive Role Models

All main characters are members of violent crime families desperately clinging to power. They run brothels and casinos, sell drugs, and rule their territories with an iron fist. Setting that aside, Juliette and Roma model courage, perseverance, and teamwork. They're both anxious to take their places as gang leaders so that they can change and improve things, and move away from the violence. Characters represent a diverse group, mostly from mainland China and several European countries. One male character is attracted to men. It's strongly implied but not discussed in detail that another character is a transgender woman.  


Fantasy violence from a pandemic illness that makes people tear their own throats out. Gory descriptions of victims mention gouging arteries, tendons, and muscle as well as blood spurting, seeping, pooling, etc. Real-world violence includes past and present murders by slitting throats and gunshots. Several fights draw blood from punching, kicking, and attempted drowning. Pain from injuries is briefly described. An autopsy-like procedure mentions pulling brain tissue out. A surgical procedure on an unconscious victim briefly describes slicing open the scalp. Mention that a man involved in a riot had a meat cleaver in his head. Some eerie atmospheres and descriptions of a scary monster.


A couple of kisses, one of which describes tongue and teeth. Caressing bare skin once. Several mentions of brothels and a couple of scenes take place in brothels, one mentioning a man with his pants down and a woman in bed.


"S--t," "ass," "asshole," "hell," "piss," "damn," and "whoring." Several uses of a Mandarin phrase that isn't translated in the book, but readers who look it up will find it's roughly equivalent to "f--king, damn," or "dammit." An untranslated word from Russian means "a--hole." Profanity in French includes "foutre" ("f--k") and "merde" ("s--t").

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A scene in a bar has older teens drinking many shots of tequila. Later a hangover is mentioned. Older teens remember when they were 15 and took liquor from their parents and drank it in a park. A characters drinks a bottle of gin and orders another. Mention that adults try to out-drink each other. A seedy location mentions people slugging back drinks who are probably on a lot of different drugs, too. A few mentions of buying and selling opium, and that a gang processes theirs to make it more addictive. An opium den mentioned with slumped bodies and bad smells. The plot involves a fictional new opiate called "lernicrom." A secondary character is mentioned smoking a few times. A few other historically accurate mentions of smoking, ashtrays, etc.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chloe Gong's These Violent Delights is a retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, setting the story of star-crossed lovers from feuding families in 1920s Shanghai. Lots of fantasy violence, including gory descriptions of people tearing their own throats out. Real-world violence is mostly gangster activity and includes shootings, stabbings, fistfights, an attempted drowning, and threats. Blood and pain are described briefly. The plot involves the spread of a disease to pandemic-like levels. An autopsy mentions pulling brain tissue out. Strong language includes "s--t," "ass," and "hell." Some profanity in Mandarin, French, and Russian isn't translated. Sexy stuff is fairly light, with two kisses, one of which describes tongue and teeth. Characters run brothels, casinos, and bars, and some scenes take place in them. They also process and sell opium. A fictional opium-like drug is introduced. Older teens drink alcohol occasionally, including one binge with many shots of tequila. A hangover is mentioned and other consequences have to do with the plot. A secondary character smokes. In terms of representation, one character is attracted to the same sex, and a conversation strongly implies that another is transgender; neither issue is explored in depth.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 13 years old Written byImjustateenaged... April 9, 2021
Great Book I 100% recommend, zoom to the nearest Barns and Noble and grad this book right now. I could not stop reading it was SO good props to Booktok for maki... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byQueen_Incognito May 4, 2021

One of my favs tbh

This is a great story with Chinese representation and Romeo and Juliette Inspired. It has great messages and the love story is amazing and so sweet. The plot an... Continue reading

What's the story?

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS tells the story of two crime families vying for supremacy over Shanghai in 1926. Attacks and retaliations have spilled a lot of blood on both sides. Roma Montagov is heir to the White Flowers gang, and Juliette Cai is heir to the Scarlets. Four years ago they met and fell in love, vowing to put a stop to the feud when they took over. But Roma betrayed Juliette, and Juliette's been living overseas for the last four years. Now that she's back in Shanghai, she hardly recognizes the city she left behind, and she hasn't been able to forgive Roma, either. Amidst the violence and chaos, a horrible disease begins to spread throughout the city, and rumor has it that it's caused by a mysterious monster that's been sighted in the Huangpu River lately. Realizing that neither family can rule over an empty, decimated city, Roma and Juliette agree to work together to stop the disease from spreading. But they don't agree to let go of the past, to forgive, or to forget.

Is it any good?

This is a strong, epic debut novel from promising college undergraduate Chloe Gong, who does an especially good job of bringing Shanghai in 1926 vividly to life. Her powers of description are best in creating atmospheres from the eerie river at night to elegant lawn parties in the French section of town. The large cast of characters are well developed and for the most part easy to keep track of. Teens will enjoy this retelling of the classic star-crossed-lovers tale whether they've read Romeo and Juliet or not.

Action, excitement, and mystery solving share the pages with sweeping and epic change in the politics and society of Shanghai at the time, as well as with the inner workings of the two rival criminal gangs. It's a lot to take on, and it's pretty well balanced, although some readers may feel it slows too much when it delves into Shanghai history, the rising popularity of Communism, or the foreign powers all too eager to gain control of Shanghai for themselves. Overall the plot builds well to an exciting cliff-hanger of an ending that will have readers eager for the rest of the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in These Violent Delights. How much is too much? Is reading about it different from seeing it in movies, videos, or games?

  • Romeo and Juliet is a lot of students' introduction to Shakespeare. What makes it so timeless? Have you read or seen the play, or a movie adaptation? Which did you like the best?

  • What about alcohol use in the story? Is it realistic? Is it glorified? What are your own and your family's attitudes and values about drinking?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and stories with Asian characters

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