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WAKING ROMEO by Kathryn Barker


by Kathryn Barker

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-250-17410-9
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Star-crossed lovers get a science-fiction spin in this time-travel tale.

It’s 2083, and having survived her attempted-suicide-by-knife, 18-year-old Juliet “Jules” Capulet is surly and scarred, unromantic but still reckless, while Romeo Montague remains in a coma. She and the other Settlers are squatting in a ruined London while the rest of humanity became Travelers, using pods to escape to the future. Meanwhile, Heathcliff Ellis is a Deadender, plucked from an imminent demise to save humanity and able to jump around in time. Tasked with waking Romeo and, circuitously, ensuring his own future/past, Ellis scrambles to save the reluctant Jules. Certainly not the first time-traveling or dystopian Shakespearean retelling, this melodrama delivers a grungy end-times aesthetic even as it suffers from shaky logic and repetition. Also wearisome is the gimmick that self-avowed Shakespeare-fan Jules is writing Romeo and Juliet to add to the classic canon. Barker crams in many quotes from across the Bard’s oeuvre, often without attribution and out of context; while readers who are ardent Shakespeare fans may recognize and appreciate them, for others it renders this futuristic tale unevenly archaic and disjointed. Romeo and Jules are cued as White; Ellis is black.

A redemption story about loving both well and wisely that doesn’t coalesce.

(Science fiction. 14-18)