YEAR: 2083. LOCATION: LONDON. MISSION: WAKE ROMEO.
It’s the end of the world. Literally. Time travel is possible, but only forwards. And only a handful of families choose to remain in the ‘now’, living off the scraps that were left behind. Among these are eighteen-year-old Juliet and the love of her life, Romeo. But things are far from rosy for Jules. Romeo is in a coma and she’s estranged from her friends and family, dealing with the very real fallout of their wild romance. Then a handsome time traveller, Ellis, arrives with an important mission that makes Jules question everything she knows about life and love. Can Jules wake Romeo and rewrite her future?
Ok, so, yes it’s only the start of March, but I feel like I have found one of my favourite books of 2021 already: WAKING ROMEO by Kathryn Barker. This book! It has time travel and love and feminism and a mind blowingly clever plot and just loads of heart. I know there’s no shortage of Romeo and Juliet retellings out there, but this really does it in such a different way, and with I think a different kind of insight, that it honestly brought something new to the story for me – I’ve never seen Romeo and Juliet quite like this, and I really think it has changed my relationship with their story. I can’t really say much about the book without giving away too much – and this is definitely one you where you want to go in spoiler-free and watch the brilliant plot unfold as you read.
Something I can tell you that I really liked about Waking Romeo was the way that it looks at gender stereotypes/expectation, and representation in literature. I think this is something we are seeing more often when it comes to women – we all have favourite fierce female protagonist who are bucking the stereotype of girls being demure and sweet and weak – but, in Waking Romeo, I feel like Barker goes a step further to examine the way men are often presented in books. I loved the way that the book pokes at male stereotypes and toxic masculinity, and questions why these qualities of ‘manliness’ should be held as examples for men to aspire to, and also touches on how this representation might make young male readers feel. I really appreciated the moments when the ‘softer’ side of men was celebrated.
I loved the time travel element of Waking Romeo – it was so cleverly done, and so well plotted out, and I felt like the little tidbits we got from characters at different points in the timeline had me intrigued and busting to see how things would all come together – cryptic, I know, but honestly! There were so many ‘wow’ moments for me in this book! I also think that the time travel was a perfect complement to the theme of cause and effect, and how individuals’ different perceptions of one event flow on to the next.
One more thing that I just have to mention that I got a real kick out of was the references not just to Romeo and Juliet, but Shakespeare’s other works as well as other classic literature, and more modern pop culture and music references. I’m not going to lie – everytime I look at the cover Taylor Swift’s Love Story pops into my head, so I was a bit thrilled to come across bits and pieces of the lyrics throughout the story.
Obviously I loved this book – I’m serious about it already being a 2021 favourite! It was one of those books where as soon as I finished I was so tempted to start reading from the beginning again! Please let me know if you read this one – I’m clearly busting to be able to talk to people about it! Now, if anyone needs me I’ll be tracking down a copy of Barker’s first novel In the Skin of a Monster….
Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker
Out now from Allen & Unwin
Source: Free copy provided by Allen & Unwin for review (thank you!). All views are my own.
Catagory: Young adult sci-fi, dystopian time travel retelling
Format: Paperback, 396 pages
Waking Romeo on Goodreads