Waking Romeo
Grade : B+

Romeo and Juliet – but in space, with the addition of some Wuthering Heights thrown on top of the pile.  That’s the theme of Kathryn Barker’s Waking Romeo, which plays with and modernizes the play’s tropes.  It’s dizzying, it’s messy, but it’s nonetheless compelling because it’s fun and inventive.  Overall, the book will likely please the youngsters who read it.

It’s 2083, and eighteen-year-old Juliet – Jules – Capulet and Romeo Montague are still suffering in the wake of their forbidden love affair.  While Romeo is in a coma, Jules survived the suicide attempt which injured him and it’s left her with severe scarring and an arm that is numb.  His parents blame her for the accident, her parents have remained distant, preferring to join the rest of the world in fleeing from the dystopian present by indulging in some pod-based time travel, and she spends her days and nights beside his bed, waiting for him to awaken.  While humanity has mastered the art of moving through the centuries, they have only figured out how to leap forward instead of backwards.

Then all at once, a mysterious visitor from the past appears. He informs Jules that his name is Ellis, that he is a doctor, that only he and his friends have mastered the technological ability to travel forwards and backwards in time.  Oh, and his latest, AI-delivered mission is waking Romeo from his coma. Thanks to the time traveling of other people, the far future has become a wasteland.  Waking Romeo will prevent the destruction of humanity as they know it.  Jules and Ellis jump back and forth through time trying to fix the future – and develop feelings for one another along the way.

Waking Romeo is dizzying.  Dizzying in a good way, but dizzying nonetheless, in a way that is properly ambitious.  People are going to be confused by this book, but they’re also going to like it, because Ellis and Jules are interesting people to follow, and their friends – Rosaline, Tybalt, Paris, and Frogs, Ellis’ AI, are, too.  I felt great sympathy for the complicated monster that was Jules’ mother as well.

The complicated romantic entanglements going on here are also fascinating.  Jules has a loyalty to Romeo, but she feels attracted to Ellis, who may or may not be the basis for Brontë’s Heathcliff.  This is Jules’ growing up story – she turns from romance-obsessed teenager into a growing woman and has to learn to let go of the fairytale that’s been built around her.  And there are multiple messages – about living in the now, about climate change, about how love isn’t the only reason for a woman to exist on the planet.

But the story can become confusing if you’re not paying careful attention.  The book bounces between Ellis’ and Jules’ PoVs and between three entirely separate time periods.  Add in things changing because they have futzed with the timeline and you have a pretty messy situation that must be read with care.  But if you do read it with care, older teens and young adults will likely take quiet a shine to Jules, Ellis, and their twisty tale.

Waking Romeo is quite a rich concoction, but definitely one worth indulging in.

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Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: B+

Book Type: Young Adult

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : January 16, 2022

Publication Date: 01/2022

Recent Comments …

  1. I’ve not read The Burnout, but I’ve read other Sophie Kinsella’s books and they are usually hilarious rather than angsty…

Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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