Romeo for Real

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

The book was short and the charactes weren’t really fleshed out. Trigger warnings! Side characters were assholes, I had to nope out. Retellings can be hit and miss, doesn’t matter if they are Austen or Shakespeare.
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I think I like hi/lo stories because they encourage people with trouble reading to read and enjoy reading. This was a coming out story which Im kind of sick of, but I liked it.
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I really wish wholeheartedly that I could have adored this book - it had the makings to be a fantastic re-interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Julian's journey could have been wonderful, if not for the fact that it was too short. This rendered the overall narrative to maintain a sort of superficial quality to it; and by that, I mean, the characters, the dialogue, and unfortunately the story itself, was too shallow and lacked any sort of depth. It lacked meaning. For instance, Romeo's character was quite two dimensional; he went from denial to acceptance extremely quick and I feel, it may trivialise people's own experience with struggling with their own sexuality. Also, having to read Romeo's dialogue with his friends were excruciating, not only that, the story was built upon generalisations and stereotypes.

In terms of Romeo's relationship with Julian - where did it come from? I understand that the original Romeo and Juliet is not the greatest of healthy love portrayals, considering the instant love - but this fell into that same trope. There was no chemistry, no depth of romance nor character growth as they came together. 

If the story and thus, the characters, had room to grow - in that, there was room for everything to be explored more, it may be a different story. But, unfortunately, this book fails to immerse the reader with lacklustre characters, dialogue and narrative.
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It may have just been personal taste, but I had a hard time getting into this book (and its companion about Juliet [Julian]). I loved the idea, but the execution... I already knew how the basic story went, and I was hoping for characters that would draw me in to make the story more interesting, but it just fell flat for me.
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Rating: 2.5/5 Penguins
Quick Reasons: cute Romeo retelling; there was a LOT happening in a very small amount of time here; relevant, but could have been handled/written better; I had a hard time suspending my disbelief for parts of this; certain things happened a little too quickly

HUGE thanks to Markus Harwood-Jones, Lorimer Publishing, and Netgalley for sending a free egalley of this title my way! This in no way altered my review of or opinions on this read.

I hate to admit it, Penguins, but I wasn't particularly impressed with this read. As much as I love my retellings, this one fell short overall--while the subject matter was relevant, I feel like it could have been handled in much different (and, at times, in much better) ways. So...let's dive into the grit and grime, shall we?


"You make me better at being me," said Rome, holding Julian close. "I want to do it. Let's show everyone how strong love can really be."


There were a lot of problems with this book, in my humbly royal opinion. The biggest one? The way the more sensitive portions of the story were handled and written. While I understand that, realistically, there are people who go through their reckoning in violent ways at times...I also feel like there was MUCH too quick a resolution to happen, particularly in the case of two of these characters. For Rome--he got into trouble, only to be immediately "not" in trouble when things about his life came to light. He was let off the hook for some really rotten choices WAY too quickly for me to fully believe and buy into his character arc.

Much like Romeo's insta-love for Juliet (and, before her, Rosaline), there was insta-love...or maybe more like insta-lust? It was dramatic, but...there were no fireworks. There was no chemistry, in ANY of the interactions. There was a lot of self-hatred, and a lot of unjustified violence, and A LOT of mistakes. I couldn't get into the characters' heads. I couldn't see them, visualize them, understand them. Several of them flip-flopped so hard, I thought I was maybe reading about Magikarp in the midst of a Pokemon battle.

It's harsh...but I didn't enjoy this. I think that, with a little more fine-tuning and a lot of fleshing out, this could have been a much different read. As it is, the characters--and their journeys--didn't make much sense in the end. "Alas, Poor Yorick"....and onto the next one!
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Similar to the "Juliet" book, this was an approachable read for upper middle to high school readers. The dramatics are engaging enough, and the writing should be easy for students in the age range to adapt to and understand.
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Content Warning: Homophobic bullying and parents, Transphobic Asshole, Hate Crimes, PTSD, Self-harm, 

At first, I was confused why Just Julian and Romeo For Real were split up into two stories. It became clear by the end. They obviously compliment each other, but both characters focus on different aspects of their story and have different conclusions for their character arcs. 

Just Julian is not as exciting as Romeo For Real in the beginning, while at the end the reverse is true. They remind me a bit of the Rainbow Boys series - amplified angst and love with a bunch of different issues going on. 

I hate to say it, but I could tell this was a new author. It felt amateurish and not polished. BUT there's a ton of potential!! I really hope Harwood-Jones doesn't let the less than stellar reviews stop them. I'll be keeping eye out for more of his work. If you haven't, you should check out his website. https://starkisscreations.com/  

I can't say if the books are worth purchasing, but I can say the author is worth supporting. I think if kids are struggling with the same issues as Julian (PTSD, overshadowed by parent) or Romeo (clueless, closeted, surrounded by homophobes) that it's worth checking out. The reading level would be easy enough for middle and jr. high kids as an intimidating introduction to QUILTBAG content.
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This book and the next book are companion novels, so they are intertwined. They are also apparently hi/lo novels, novels “intended for reluctant and struggling readers. As such it is fast-paced, short, and uses high interest content with simple vocabulary to keep these readers engaged.” And even knowing this I’m not sure they hit the mark.

I grabbed copies of these from NetGalley last month and only just got around to reading them in early August* because who doesn’t love an LGBT retelling of a classic? I know I do. Unfortunately, this part of the story, at least to my memory, was at such a minimum and tangential level it didn’t really work for me. It mostly came across in the main character’s names, Romeo Montague and Julian Capulet, and the very short time frame of the book.

These two books try to do good things for queer/LGBT+ youth, but could have done them A LOT better. This may have been a limitation of the hi/lo fast paced simple vocabulary, but with something as complex as human sexuality and self identity this might not have been the best mechanism for this story.

I thorough l enjoyed that there were lesbian, gay, queer, non-biary, trans, and straight cis-gendered cross-dressing characters represented in this brief glimpse into the world. However, with so many characters in this world of 186 pages (or 372 when you count both) there was so little time for character development none of them, including the main characters Romeo and Julian, got any more depth than the page they were on.

The writing itself was okay. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t bad. There were times like this

“Rome’s mind went blank. He was a boat floating freely in a vast ocean. The buzz of his drunken state buoyed him toward uncharted seas. The stranger’s dark eyes pulled him in like whirlpools. Rome’s body grew warmer, like it was waking up, brimming with excitement. The stranger came forward, reaching up to touch Rome’s cheek. A burst of desire rang through Rome’s chest, washing away any doubt he still might have had.” (Chapter 3)

That drove me crazy. How many metaphors can you cram into one paragraph? Maybe this is because of the hi/lo thing, but either way when I read this passage in Chapter 3 I almost gave up. Thankfully, there weren’t too many more like this.

There were two points when I actually laughed out loud because of something Harwood-Jones wrote:

“Julian knew so much about everything. It was like being on a date with a dictionary. But, like, a sexy dictionary, thought Rome with a bit of a smirk.” (Chapter 7)

Man Up for your Man Friends who like Men: The Straight But Not Narrow Project (Chapter 11)

Who wouldn’t want to date a sexy dictionary? And that book title really got me. I legit searched for it because I would totally read it just to see what sort of advice a book titled like that could give.

Then there were two serious parts that I felt Harwood-Jones treated well but entirely way too lightly which I believe is a limitation of the books time frame and the hi/lo language limitations.

“It wasn’t until he was back with Julian that Rome let himself feel the weight of all that had happened that day. He tried to joke about it at first. But his body began to shake as the reality of the fight with his parents and Ben’s rejection came back at full speed. His knees buckled and he sat down on the steps to Julian’s house. He stumbled over his words. ‘God, I’m so—I just—'” (Chapter 18)

I’m not sure about the rest of the LGBT community, but I know when I came out to someone other than myself that I actually knew (i.e. not a stranger on the internet) and said it out loud it put me out of commission for almost two days. I was so exhausted physically and emotionally that I couldn’t do anything physically and couldn’t comprehend anything emotionally/mentally. The fact that Romeo comes out, finds the love of his life, and then becomes an activist all in about four days drives me crazy.

The second thing that Harwood-Jones touched on that I wished he would’ve treated in less of a passing manner was self-harm.

“Julian told Rome his story—the bullying at school, the long, lonely nights, the pain it took to just keep going. Julian cut himself to stay alive. And then he cut again and again, when he felt like he couldn’t keep going anymore. ‘I just wanted to die,’ Julian whispered.” (Chapter 9)

I’ll talk more about this in the next book because it is Julian who experiences this, but I needed to mention it this time because I read this book first and it did come up.

Recommendation: Pass, but not a hard pass. If it piques your interest go for it. Were these the worst books I’ve read? No. Were these anywhere near the top of the young adult novels I’ve read? No. I was so mad at the ending of this novel, but got at least a little better ending with the companion novel. Honestly, the two books should’ve been merged together and been read every other chapter. I read this one on the way to work and Just Julian on the way home from work and when I finished both I was still like uhhhhhh, but that’s part of the romance trope of “happily for now” endings.

*I received a copy of Romeo for Real from the publisher via NetGalley in return for my honest. No goods or money were exchanged.
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Thank you so much James Lorimer & Company for the opportunity to read and review Romeo for Real. I adored this sweet book so much! A full review will be posted soon.
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I got an ARC of this book.

So this is the companion book to Just Julian. I am not impressed by this cover at all. Remember that Romeo is supposed be a closeted gay and no one has any idea he is gay. I see this and my first thought is he is a drag queen or wants to be. So it is safe to say that I did not imagine Romeo looking like this at all. 

The book itself was bland, boring, and I had many of the same issues as I did with the companion. This book follows Romeo's adventures. Romeo isn't gay when the book starts, at least he is pretty sure he isn't. He actively gay bashes people, he was in a "relationship" with a girl for a LONG TIME even. The girl turns out to be half of the couple hosting a queer apartment warming party where he meets Julien. For someone who isn't gay and has really homophobic friends Romeo sure did kiss Julian in a pretty public place pretty quickly. Then he came out to his "ex-girlfriend" (I keep putting this in quotes since the further you get in the book it is made clear there never was any relationship at all) the next morning who gives him a list of super queer places in town. He then immediately goes into one where he finds Julian again because Romeo has no idea how bookshelves work. They again kiss in public. 

The whole book has a super rushed timeline, which I get fits with the source material. The issue besides falling so passionately in love with someone in three days is Romeo was raised Catholic, his dad is abusive, and his friends are homophobic. Why would he come out and suddenly be like "yup, I'm totally gay" so quickly. There would be more angst or at least more substance. 

This book is also full of 2-D characters, but if you combine the two books some of the characters feel a bit more fleshed out. My major issue (outside of transphobia which I will get to shortly) is the books have drastically different dialogue and actions. It is annoying. I read it and went "Wow, I remember him saying something totally different", so I went back to check. Yup, totally different. Some scenes made more sense based just on how they were written and some made less sense. In this book they had sex, in the other they just cuddled. If books are going to be companions, I expect them to you know work together to tell one story. This wouldn't have worked as one book because of how repetitive it was, but if it was edited together it could have easily been a much better book than what these two were.

So onto the transphobia which also runs rampant in this book too, despite this book supposedly giving you courage to be yourself. The transphobic incident at the party where a trans girl was outed as a "man" happened, but at least this time someone was like "that's shitty" for a second THE NEXT DAY. The entire party was an exercise in how much transphobic language I could handle. Romeo was mildly the narrator so part of it is on him, but this is told in the third person so most of the shame is on the author. The transphobic character was back, but played a bigger role. She told Romeo and his friend stories about how she loved "tricking" boys into having sex with her. I am just so pissed that this character exists. That is one of the number one transphobic things that people see on Jerry Springer, which should have been a "wait a second" moment for the author. Instead here is one of the worst representations of trans people in YA I have ever seen. I must point out that the author bio mentions the author went on a trip to learn more about trans people. Clearly he did not learn enough if this was his enlightened state. 

Please, do not buy this book for a trans person to read. It is damaging. There is so much transphobia, so much homophobia, so much violence and abuse. This book has so many movie parts that are never addressed that it can send the complete wrong message to younger readers. For example it isn't seen as bad or wrong that Julian cuts himself. It is never discussed beyond that he does it and he hides it.
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The good news is this books is short. The bad news is this book is short and ...

The characters are not properly fleshed out. The scenes are not introduced nor detailed. The transitions are missing.

I can tell the story the author meant to write. Unfortunately, this reads more like an outline than a fully formed plot. There isn't enough depth in anything here to make it relatable. A few scenes are added purely for the shock value. There is no romance. There is abrupt, insta-love that makes no sense at all. No chemistry. There are various LGBTQ characters thrown in for inclusion, yet they don't impact the story in any way. Token bad parents that don't seem all that bad because the plot is not detailed enough.

I just don't know what to say. Even my review is coming out as loose and pointless as the story. I think it "could" be a decent plot. But it would take another couple of hundred pages to really pull it together.
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A modern take on the Shakespeare classic "Romeo & Juliet" told from the point of view of Romeo Montague. Romeo seems to have it all., star athlete, girlfriend, great friends, and great family. But Romeo has a secret. He thinks he's gay. At this point his girlfriend is the only person he has told. She is ok with it, because she is lesbian and they were using each other as a cover.

When Romeo, by chance, meets Julian at his ex-girlfriends party. His breath is taken away by Julian. Feelings stir inside for Julian. Feelings he had never felt for anyone before. The more time he spends with Julian, the more he feels for him and the more he wants to protect him. The more he falls in love with Julian, the more he feels he needs to be honest with family and friends. Seeking advice from his school counselor, he finds the courage to tell his family and his friends. One of Romeo's friends takes the news badly and ends their friendship. Romeo and Julian's story takes its tragic turn when Romeo's homophobic friend shows up with friends to beat the gay out of Romeo.

Read "Just Julian" for Julian's point of view. I will not spoil the outcome of this book. Read it for yourself and see how this tale of star-crossed lovers ends.
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I’m glad I read Just Julian before this story or I may have been completely lost. Although the couple is the same and the events are the same, this story is told from Romeo’s perspective and it’s completely different from Julian’s. And yet, the two stories together complement each other. Unfortunately, the author does not indicate which book should be read first, and in reality, he probably should have simply combined both POV’s and created one book.

I liked this story, in large part, I believe, because I knew what was going to happen already. I also like Romeo’s character more—at least I liked much of his character and perspective in this book, though I didn’t care for his early participation in gay bashing. I did, however, understand the peer pressure that led to it.

I think even Julian’s mother was easier to understand when viewed from Rome’s POV. His own parents were barely mentioned in Julian’s book and were perfect examples of unlikeable persons in this one. The vice principal, Mrs. Duke, was quite nasty to him in this story, and yet was a friend of Julian’s mother and an advocate for LBGTQ rights in that book, in which she also had a larger role. 

The friend base was a bit different and interactions among their friends included more on those secondary characters in this story. But like the other book, I found it odd that there was so much diversity in that high school—especially given the homophobic bullying and the parents’ attitudes.

All in all, I would recommend that if someone wants to read this, they should read Just Julian first as I believe the perspective is in better balance reading that before this one. But neither book is one I’d highly recommend to my friends in general. But those who enjoy YA stories might like this look at a little slice of life in this small town.
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This book describes the beginning and progression of Romeo's relationship with the openly gay Julian. Romeo must come to grips with his own sexuality, as well as realize that old friends and his parents may never accept him as his relationship with Julian progresses.. This is written as a twin to the book Julian, and they should be read together. Both are short books, so length will not stand in the reader's way.
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This book is a companion book to Just Julian. It runs the same time period as that book but it is from Rome's pov. In this book, Rome is trying to figure things out about himself. Is he gay or bi or whatever? He's confused about things and having to deal with homophobic friends and family he doesn't think he should come out, if he is gay. Then he meets Julian and things start to click with Rome. I bet this story is more true to life than I can imagine. Again, like in Just Julian, there is hand holding, kissing, and a lot of diversity. Also violence. But here we see both sides of the story. I loved reading both books and I think for those who are not a fan of reading these are pretty quick reads and pretty important stories.

Thanks to netgalley and the publishers for the arc of both books.
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Its a short story retelling of romeo and Juliet ( in this case romeo and Julian). At first i couldn't get past the first and second chapter because of the side characters ( and the main )behavior, but after that it was okay.i think the book would have been better if it was fleshed out a little bit
Fancy a little retelling of the Romeo and Juliet try this book.
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UGH I so wanted to love this. I wanted to find a fun twist on Romeo and Juliet, but this one fell way short. So much terrible angst. WAY to quick to love. No real feeling of it being a complete story. Everything seemed to happen and end so quickly.
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I enjoyed this series. It was a modern retelling of one of my favorite books. I think it’s a unique way of telling a story in a new way to make it relatable to younger audiences. Would definitely be a good compare and contrast in a classroom and just a fun read.
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Rating: 2.0/5.0

The story about coming out of the closet. I thought that this was a Romeo & Juliet retelling story but other than the main characters names it is nothing like Romeo & Juliet. The story is mainly about Romeo coming out to his parents, friends and their reaction in accepting his sexual orientation.

Many of the negative reviews were given to this book because of the amount of homophobia it has. This is not the reason I am giving it low stars, because I still think in our real life there is so much more of homophobia than this short story depicted. My low rating is because I felt the characters were very shallow. They did not have much uniqueness. The situations and events were very superficial. Like the way, Romeo kissed Julian the first time just because he saw him in the room! There are cringy moments too. The second book has an Asian guy on the cover as Julian. In this book I don't even remember if it was mentioned that Julian was an Asian guy.

I have grabbed this book from NetGalley when it was available in the read now section and this is my honest non-biased review.
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Romeo for Real is a book that, with the classic story of Romeo and Juliet as its foundational text, has tremendous potential. Keeping in mind the fact that this book is "a hi/lo title intended for reluctant and struggling readers. As such it is fast-paced, short, and uses high interest content with simple vocabulary to keep these readers engaged," it does, to an extent, meet its set guidelines. The narrative moves very quickly in its brief length, and it's clear that an effort was made to keep readers engaged; however, what this also means is that conflict arises and resolves at a breakneck pace, and people fight and forgive in a way that disregards how serious the conflict was. It's nice to think that people in conflict would listen to each and forgive each other with such ease, but even for a YA audience, I think it's unlikely. Similarly, the character development is nearly non-existent. There are good guys and bad guys, and the good guys are saints and the bad guys are seemingly unredeemable, one-note villains. My concern with the superficial nature of the story and its characters is that, if LGBTQIA+ reluctant or struggling readers read this book, I don't think they'll come away with a fair sense of the way people in conflict communicate with each other, nor how nuance drives so much of everyone's behavior, whether they know it or not. Books with LGBTQIA+ characters and stories don't have to be a panacea, but I think it undermines the audience--even or especially a reluctant one--when they are one dimensional.
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