'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 27 March 2021

Review: Waking Romeo

Waking Romeo is like nothing you have read before. It spans genres, adding twist upon twist you’ll never see coming. It spans time, as characters travel back to the past and forward to the future. 

It’s a book that takes hold from page one and doesn’t let go, compelling you to spend late nights reading one more chapter, for which you will only be delighted and never annoyed.

If you love dystopian, science fiction, and/or time travel YA, this one is completely, utterly, 100% for you.

Set in the future when time travel is possible, a small community has decided not to jump ahead like the rest of humanity and are trying to survive in an abandoned and decaying world.

Juliet, or Jules, is part of this community. She’s an average teen. She hangs with friends, goes to parties and has fallen deeply in love with the boy from across the street. 

But that is all before the night that everything goes wrong. 

We step onto the stage of this story almost two years after everything falls apart for Jules — after the night she almost dies and her boyfriend Romeo ends up in a coma.

Names sound familiar? Of course they do! This is the story of Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague. It is the story you remember, but it’s also not. It will put everything you know about the Shakespeare classic into question and make you fall in love with it all over again, but with a unique twist that, to me, makes a lot more sense than the original.

But this is only half the story. At the very edge of time, rescued from the past and living with a small group of time travelers, is Ellis. Following the instructions of his rescuer, Ellis and his friends are trying to save the world. But when a mission forces Ellis to cross paths with Jules, and things don’t go exactly to plan, Ellis and Jules are forced to travel through time to try and fix things. And if they fail... well they better not fail.

Waking Romeo could not be more original. It’s thought provoking, spine tingling and more and more addictive with every chapter. Filled with complex and interesting characters who face the end of the world in different and complex ways, it explores the good and bad in humanity and the things we do when facing the darkest of moments.

I love that there is no sugar coating in this story. There is bravery, but it comes at a cost and is always earnt. There is jealousy, secret keeping, shame, guilt and bottled-up anger alongside love, passion, friendship and humour. This soup of emotions makes this book real and raw. It's a true reflection of the world and human behaviour weaved through an unpredictable story that leaves you deeply satisfied and craving more.  

Kathryn Barker’s ability to immerse readers into a layered, and time-bending, world is awe-inspiring. Romeo and Juliet isn’t the only classic novel to have importance in this story, and to weave these elements in and not only make it logical, but also make it seem this book imparts a hidden truth about them, is magical. And a challenge I am sure.

Waking Romeo is a seed that plants itself inside your mind and grows steadily as you read. It never leaves, even when you’ve finished the book. And it will remain there inside you, making you think and question and remember for months to come.

If you’re searching for a powerful YA read with strong characters and an enthralling plot, I highly recommend Waking Romeo. And if you’re a dystopian, science fiction and/or time travel fan, you simply have to read it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Title: Waking Romeo
Author: Kathryn Barker
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, $19.99
Publication Date: March 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760297152
For ages: 12+
Type: Young Adult Fiction