Waking Romeo

Flatiron. Feb. 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250174109.
Gr 8 Up–A science fiction retelling of the timeless Shakespeare play. It’s 2083 and Jules and Romeo survived their star-crossed love, but not without dire consequences. Also, the world is ending. While Jules and Romeo are Settlers living in London, everyone else is desperately trying to use time travel to escape to a better future. Except, the future never gets better. Ellis knows this because he’s a Deadender and lives at the end of time. The Deadenders are the few people who can travel backwards in time and they’re trying to save the world. The latest mission, Wake Romeo, sends Ellis to 2083 where he must work with Jules to save the future. Barker creates an interesting concept for a dystopian world that is lost in a drawn out, overly complicated plot that relies on readers knowing Shakespeare’s plays and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Likewise, the Shakespearean five-act plot results in awkward pacing that could frustrate readers. Where Barker excels is demonstrating the reality of the Romeo and Juliet love story as Jules must deal with the consequences of her actions and her changing feelings for Romeo as she matures into an adult. Barker also creates a representative cast of characters. Jules is coded white and has a disability. Ellis is Black and other supporting characters are people of color.
VERDICT Recommend to readers comfortable with non-linear narratives and familiar with classic literature.

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