According to an English professor in Michigan all stories come out of other stories…that there are no original ideas only original twists on old plots. Sharon Draper’s Romiette and Julio is a perfect example of a very original twist on Shakesphere’s star crossed lover’s tale. This book falls into the realistic fiction genre.
This is the first Sharon Draper book I have read, although I have her trilogy on my bookshelf and have had lots of students rave about Tears of A Tiger. Romiette and Julio turned out to be an extremely well written book in several different ways. First, I think Draper did an excellent job at putting an original twist on the Romeo and Juliet story. I liked the fact that she reversed the names making the female protagonist Romiette and the male protagonist Julio. Secondly, I like how she used Romiette being Black and Julio being Hispanic to set in motion the conflicts involved in the plot. However, what I think I liked most was Draper’s actually writing techniques. For instance, she uses figurative language to describe Romeitte “I am brown like the earth, tall and slim like a popular tree, and outspoken like the wind on a stormy day.” She also chose third person omniscient so the reader could get into both the main character’s heads, but also uses a journal technique so the reader feels a more personal connection to Romiette. Finally, Draper opens the story by foreshadowing what turns out to be the climax. The effect of the foreshadowing not only peaks interest, but makes the climax even more suspenseful because the reader sees the changes before the characters do.
The book is set in present day urban Cincinnati and is quite important to the overall plot of the story. Julio is force to move from Austin, Texas because of the increased gang activity and his father’s inability to find a job. This immediately set up a major conflict for Julio because he hates everything about his new home. Ironically, his father’s concern about the gangs ends up being Julio’s major problem in the story. Julio’s new school has a black gang that resents Julio dating Romeitte because he is Hispanic and she is Black. This conflict comes to a head in a very exciting climax that also incorporates part of the urban setting. Draper interweaves the setting, plot and characters’ problem seamlessly.
If you like realistic fiction with a strong plot, action, and romance, then I highly recommend Romeitte and Julio by Sharon Draper.