Title: Romiette and Julio
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks Year: 1999
# of pages: 320 Genre: Teen Fiction
Reading level: 13 Interest level: 13+
Potential hot lava: gangs, violence, kidnapping
This book was wonderful!I thoroughly enjoyed this modern-day Romeo and Juliet novel.The pacing of the story was perfect because I could not put down the book as I read.Draper does a wonderful job building suspense and describing very realistic scenes.At some points, I did not want to continue reading because I did not want to know how the characters ended up.I know how Romeo and Juliet ends, and I did not want to read that the same fate awaited Romiette and Julio.This was a wonderful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
Subjects, Themes, and Big Ideas:
• Romiette Cappelle – sixteen-year-old, African-American girl who has lived in Cincinnati her whole life, her best friend is Destiny, her father works for the local news station, and she falls in love with Julio.Romiette cannot swim.
• Julio Montague – sixteen-year-old, Hispanic boy who moves from Corpus Cristi to Cincinnati, quickly makes friends with Ben, meets Romiette in an online chat room, and falls in love with her.
• Destiny – Romiette’s best friend, believes in the stars and horoscopes, always searching for her soul mate.
• Ben – Julio’s friend, was punched on Julio’s first day, dyes his hair different colors, very smart, but does not show his intelligence to his teachers, unique.
• Terrell – leader of the Devildogs, threatening and powerful
• The Devildogs – the main gang at Romiette’s and Julio’s high school, their colors are purple and the leaders are the only ones who wear purple hoodies, every member is African-American.
• Malaka – former friend of Romiette, runs with the Devildogs because they said that they would make her a member of the gang, helps the police find Romiette and Julio
• Cappelle parents – Cornell is the father who is a newscaster for the local news station.Lady Brianna is the mother who owns an African clothing boutique.The father is worried about his daughter and blames Julio for her disappearance.
• Montague parents – Luis is the father who had a bad experience with gangs in his younger days.Maria is the mother who is very understanding of Julio’s feelings for Romiette.
Romiette has a recurring dream where she is drowning and she hears a voice calling to her.Destiny tries to interpret the dream but cannot get a grasp on it.Julio has moved from Corpus Cristi to Cincinnati and he is angry about it.On his first day, he gets into a fight with Ben.Just when Julio thinks he is going to get in trouble, Ben makes an excuse to get them both out of trouble and Julio and Ben become friends.
In an online chat room, Romiette and Julio meet and begin their friendship.They learn that they go to the same school and meet face to face (despite what their friends say about the dangers of the internet).Their friendship grows into a budding romance as they continue to talk and have lunch together every day.
However, Julio’s father is not understanding of his friendship with an African-American girl.Luis has had bad experiences with African-Americans and does not want his son to suffer the same loss.
Not only does Julio’s father not approve, but certain people at school do not approve either.The Devildogs target the couple because of their interracial friendship.Malaka “warned” Romiette about what the Devildogs were planning, but the couple had no idea how much trouble they would have on their hands.
With the help of Destiny and Ben, Romiette and Julio think of a plan to expose the Devildogs.Romiette and Julio had been threatened by the group before and wanted it to stop.However, the plan goes wrong and Romiette and Julio are kidnapped by the Devildogs.
When both families find out about the kidnapping, both fathers blame each other.Cappelle blames Montague because he believes that Julio was involved in gang violence.Montague does the same thing because of his past experience with African-American gangs in Texas.Both mothers, however, concentrate on the fact that their children are missing and work together to find them.Both mothers are more understanding of their children’s feelings.
Romiette and Julio’s kidnapping made it on the news and the whole town helped in the search.While searching, Cornell and Luis come to terms with each other and become friends.
In the end, Romiette and Julio are found and the gang is exposed.Finally, they can live a normal life together.
Strengths (including reviews and awards):
The characters are updated but still remain true to the Shakespeare version.It is easy to match, the characters in this version, to the Shakespeare version.The story is relatable to teenagers with computers and gangs and such.It addresses the issues of gang violence, ethnicity, and interracial relationships.
Drawbacks or other cautions:
Towards the end, the coincidence of their names is overemphasized.
Gang violence is described in detail.
• Discussion on interracial relationships
o How do you feel about them?
o Are there still problems now?Or is this issue a dead issue?
o Are there still taboos?
• Discussion on gangs
o Have you had any experience with gangs?
o Are there still problems with gangs today?
o How dangerous are they?
• Discussion on family and friends dynamics
o How do you get along with your family?
o Are there any prejudices your family has?
o How do you choose your friends?
o Journals to keep personal details private
• How is this novel similar the Shakespeare play?
• Connect the characters
o Have a chart with the Shakespeare characters and with the Draper characters
o Have the students describe each character (from both versions)
o Connect each character during the reading
• How is the novel different from the Shakespeare play?
o Not in the obvious ways
• Show clips of the movies (1968 and 1996)
• Compare and contrast the movies
• Compare and contrast the play and the novel
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