This is a delightfully modern look at Romeo and Juliet. Romilly and Julian meet as strangers at a political debate. They discover much in common, including their political outlooks, but she doesn’t know he’s the son of the conservative candidate she tears down in front of Julian, and he has no idea Romilly’s much more than a simple supporter of the progressive candidate. This ignorance doesn’t last long, but it’s enough for them to feel a connection stronger than their obligations.
The novella is written in short scenes that switch back and forth between the two perspectives in a way that took a little getting used to, but ultimately I found effective to keep me aware of both the obvious and subtext in each encounter. The author includes a guide in the back to show how this story mirrors the original play, but I knew the play well enough to see, and appreciate, the moments as they came up.
Speaking of subtext, the dialogue is wonderfully written, and the counterpart in their thoughts offers more depth, especially in the beginning when the reader knows both of their true identities before they do. Even with the close parallels to the play giving me a clear idea of how things would develop, the writing kept me engaged until the story became very serious very quickly. The author found a way to translate the sword fights in an all too current way that put Romilly and Julian on the wrong sides of a major conflict.
This is a well-written, relevant rendition of Romeo and Juliet that manages to hit almost all the high and low points of the play without forcing them. Where it deviates the most is in how the families react to the discovery of Romilly and Julian’s relationship. That felt both realistic and true to the importance of family.
The novella is very modern in how it addresses homophobia, political corruption, and classism, however, along with the conflicts between teens and their parents. It definitely has a serious side to balance out the repartee. I’m impressed and very much enjoyed this sweet tale of young love caught between warring political families.