A huge thank-you to Flatiron Books for this review copy of Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker.
I had no clue what I was getting into when I agreed to readWaking Romeo, a sci-fi retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
In December of 2021, I received an email from Flatiron Books, asking if I’d like to read Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker. I hadn’t heard anything about the book or the author, but the concept sounded intriguing and yes, the cover was beautiful. I agreed and didn’t really think much about it again – until the book arrived sometime in mid-January. The cover was even more stunning in person and I kept pushing it higher and higher up my TBR each time I saw it sitting on my shelf. Until, finally, I picked it up at the end of March.
I had read the synopsis and even thought I knew what I was getting into, but truthfully, I wasn’t prepared in the slightest for this whirlwind adventure! This book has to be the most fascinating retelling I’ve ever read. That’s high praise, you gotta understand, as someone who adores series like The Lunar Chronicles and gorgeous fairytale mash-ups like Echo North. But there was just something so incredibly unique and fresh about Waking Romeo that had me on the edge of my seat!
As I’m writing this post, it’s been about a week since I finished the book and I’m still thinking about it. That’s got to mean something, right? Keep on reading to see my full, spoiler-free review and find out just why this novel stood out to me.
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My honest review of Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker.
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?
Content Warnings: (major) Body horror, Bullying, Gaslighting, Body shaming, [[Suicide, and Suicide attempt – because it’s a Romeo and Juliet retelling]], (moderate) Injury/injury detail, Murder, Racism, Drug abuse, and Gun violence
This book was nothing like I expected, in the best way possible! Go ahead and read the synopsis. You’ll get a gist, but you definitely won’t get the full picture.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t anticipating fireworks of any sort while reading this. I thought I might enjoy it, but I figured it would be a 3-star read. 4, if I got lucky! However, after a somewhat slow and confusing start (it picks up right in the middle of mayhem and takes a bit for you to adjust to your surroundings and understand the characters), the fast pace and nonstop action kept me so hooked that I really had a hard time putting the book down. I genuinely had one evening where I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I was so tired, but I was only 100 pages from the end and everything in me was screaming to just keep reading! Yes, it was that intriguing.
Trying to give a nutshell explanation for this plot gets a little tricky. However, if I had to do it, this is basically what I’d say:
The year is 2083 and the world is coming to an end. Time travel is real and it has screwed everything up. Jules (Juliet) didn’t die when she was supposed to, and Romeo is in a coma. Then, out of nowhere, a guy named Ellis shows up from the LITERAL end of the world (a few years later – he traveled back in time) and says they need to wake Romeo because the fate of the world is dependent upon it. This Ellis guy happens to be Heathcliff Ellis, on who Emily Bronte based her novel, “Wuthering Heights”. So yes, it’s a mash-up of classic characters in an almost apocalyptic world.
Does that sound complicated? Probably terribly so. But it’s the best I can muster. Needless to say, if you’re looking for something really interesting, with lots of great action, fantastic character development, a wonderfully diverse cast, and with a nod to classics (without actually being a classic), you’ll want to pick this up!
This book had me shaking my head over and over again, trying to sort out the time travel pieces. It’s definitely a “thinker” of a story, and it will leave you wanting to pick it right back up again after you’ve finished it. That’s certainly how I’m feeling right about now!
I love it when a book exceeds expectations! This sounds very unique! I’m going to add to my TBR.
Wow, that is really surprising! I am not into that genre at all, but this review made me want to get the book 🙂
Your review makes this read compelling. I can see YA readers getting onboard. Aficionados of the classics, ooh, meltdowns?
Oh I had not heard of this but it sounds like my kind of book! Going to add it to my TBR!
Fab review! I hadn’t heard of this one before but it sounds absolutely incredible, I’m so glad to hear it was unlike other retellings! It’s really interesting that it incorporates Heathcliff too, that’s such a fascinating mash-up. Thank you so much for sharing, added this one to my tbr x
This is high praise indeed, especially as seeing as I have read your Echo North review, but I just love that you took a chance on a book that has an absolutely stunning title and discovered a new all-time favorite story! 🙂
Wow, this certainly sounds interesting! I’m not normally into this genre, but I love retellings of classic stories so I’ll give it a try 🙂 x
I haven’t heard of this book before. It sounds great though! Thanks for sharing your review!
A sci-fi Romeo&Juliet? Wow, count me in! & I love how Ellis was based on Bronte’s Heathcliff, that sounds very intriguing, love that cross-over! I love this review Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing. xx Penny / http://www.whatdidshetype.com
If you’re still thinking about the book a week after you’ve finished reading it then you know it’s a brilliant piece of writing! Not my usual genre, but anything that takes the classics and gives them a fresh twist is always something I’m intrigued to read. Fab review, Stephanie, thank you! 🙂
I have not heard of this book but it definitely sounds like something I want to read based off your review!
I am currently obsessed with a musical called “& Juliet” which tells the story of Romeo and Juliet in a different way. So I am up for anything that challenges the old narrative. Will add this to my wishlist!
Oh my gosh I did NOT expect that synopsis for this book. I love dystopian / end of the world themes in books so I love the sound of this right from the get-go!
You really loved this book I can tell! Love to see that excitement 😀
You’re right – the cover art is gorgeous! I love a good re-telling but this sounds so intriguing! The end of world plus time travel and more – it sounds like a really interesting and exciting book. Putting this one on my list!
Great review you have of this one here. I am so intrigued by the idea of this book, I do love Romeo and Juliet retellings. It’s always such a highlight when a book picks up pace.
This sounds like such an intriguing read! I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words Romeo and Juliet and sci-fi in the same sentence before, but I love a good retelling so I really want to read this one now. Great review!