Reading just isn’t my forte. I am by no means a “Class A Bookworm” as much as I’ve tried forcing myself to become one. Curling up in bed flipping through a 700-page novel for hours on end is something I rarely envision myself doing. Sorry, not my thing. I always grimace when people insist that “everyone likes reading” and that I merely “need to find my kind of book”. Walking into AP Lang this year may not have been the wisest idea, but I have been determined to get past my childish distain for reading. The novel Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper was recommended to me and I hesitantly picked it up from the library. To my surprise, the pages seemed shorter than usual and it came to my mind that possibly, I might be able to survive reading it. Maybe.
Romiette and Julio is an enchanting, modern twist of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but packed with more depth and perplexing substance. It starts by introducing two similar kids with one sharp distinction: their race. Romiette Cappelle is an average African American 16-year-old girl attending school in Cincinnati. She’s characterized as a stunning brunette with milky brown eyes and a blocked off attitude towards the world. Her spicy personality and high expectations intimidate most, but capture the intrigue of a young man, Julio Montague. He has just arrived from Corpus Christi, and absolutely despises the change from lush and tropical to dingy and gray. Struggling to find a way back into his grind, the Hispanic teenager finds himself more fearful, dismal, and lonely than ever before. That’s when he notices Romiette. Her soft and luring traits seamlessly pull him in although he knows nothing of her fierce, skeptical personality. But, Julio appears to be everything she is looking for with his strength, good looks, and warm-hearted appreciation for her.
Throughout her small encounters with Julio, Romiette fights a dream, waking her up startled and sweating each time it pays a visit. She’s drowning in her biggest fear- water with no bottom. She claims it’s not cooling and healing but sweltering and monstrous. At the end of the nightmare, she hears a familiar voice calling for her. Who is it though? She cannot figure out.
The story continues to unfold as Romiette brushes past the mysterious dream and attempts to keep her eyes open for adventure. Julio and her meet, fall into lust, and share a soft kiss under the twilight lit trees. It’s the perfect fairytale until it rapidly falls apart when they realize the reality of their situation. In this society, it is not accepted for an African American and Hispanic to love one another. To the dangerous gang in their school, the Devil Dogs, it is purely forbidden. The naïve young lovers find themselves entering a position of terror, tears, and the unknown. As they continue receiving threats from the gang renowned for dressing in purple, they find the need to form a plan. Their good friends Destiny and Ben help them craft it and set them off to put the Devil Dogs in their proper place. What Romiette and Julio do not realize is that they are playing with much more than fists, but with weapons of iron and steel that aren’t afraid to meet human flesh. Without knowing things would go askew, Ben and Destiny follow closely behind the couple, but for a moment, lose sight. In a sudden blink, Julio and Romiette are gone. Missing without a trace. Vanished. Their fear stricken families, friends, and the police come together to hunt for evidence leading them back to the helpless, lost teenagers. Will they find them alive or drowned in the depths of London Woods Lake, as Romiette’s reoccurring nightmare suggests? The story winds down the star-crossed lovers path of fate, and depicts the fight to outwit Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
Although doubtful at first, I easily thumbed through Draper’s well-constructed novel. This endearing tale of two lovers brought out the hopeless romantic in me along with the inner book nerd I never thought I’d find. Although stubborn, I need to admit that this novel positively changed my definition of reading. It allowed me to immerse myself in the emotion laced through its pages rather than staring blankly at the binding. I truly believe that the book Romiette and Julio could help even the most disinterested reader fall in love with the tale, the characters, and the act of reading. Aside from the ending of this story or in the traditional Romeo and Juliet tale, I can safely assure that reading from the cover to the end of this book didn’t cause any tragedy, poison, daggers or ill fate.
Claire Wojan is an eleventh grader at Novi High School. She values time with her family, travel, and friends. She is on the girls’ golf team at Novi and has danced for 14 years. She hopes to one day reach her dream of writing and publishing a young adult novel.