Title: Julieta and The Romeos
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review Copy: ARC by publisher
Availability: Available now
Summary: Julieta isn’t looking for her Romeo–but she is writing about love. When her summer writing teacher encourages the class to publish their work online, the last thing she’s expecting is to get a notification that her rom-com has a mysterious new contributor, Happily Ever Drafter. Julieta knows that happily ever afters aren’t real. (Case in point: her parents’ imploding marriage.) But then again, could this be her very own meet-cute?
As things start to heat up in her fiction, Julieta can’t help but notice three boys in her real life: her best friend’s brother (aka her nemesis), the boy next door (well, to her abuela), and her oldest friend (who is suddenly looking . . . hot?). Could one of them be her mysterious collaborator? But even if Julieta finds her Romeo, she’ll have to remember that life is full of plot twists. . . .
Review: I read Julieta and the Romeos the same time as I was reading a heavy tome for work and it was the perfect brain break. The story was engaging and fun, with a little mystery, and a whole lot of “will they/won’t they” thrown in. Maria Andreau wove a number of romantic tropes together that made me question which boy was really going to be endgame. I absolutely loved this aspect of the story because it made me be in the moment with Julieta as she tried to figure out which boy was Happily Ever Drafter and which one to really date.
Julieta’s confusion, no indecision, about which boy she wanted to be with made her somewhat of an unreliable narrator but not in the annoying sense. It was because she was so convinced that one of the “suitors” was the mysterious Happily Ever Drafter that each interaction with her “Romeos” was experienced from that lens. Sometimes this made for hilarious interactions and sometimes I was just frustrated with her character, especially when it was revealed who the mysterious writer was. But then again, Julieta is a teenager and they are often unreliable narrators for their own stories.
On the flip side of the story, Julieta was really using this mystery as a distraction from all the other drama in her life. Her parent’s restaurant survived COVID, but was on the brink of closing and she was taken up their stress. Julieta idolized her parents and their marriage, so to see both struggling really challenged her world view so to compensate she threw herself into the mystery of the writer and which “Romeo” it could be. I felt that for Julieta as sometimes when life is challenging, it’s the fun little quests that don’t mean much in the end that helps us get through.
Lastly, this was the first book, for me, that really dealt with our lives during COVID and the after effects we are still experiencing. Julieta’s abuela doesn’t outright state that Julieta’s grandfather died of COVID, just regrets that her last words to him were something silly over the phone from a nurse holding the phone to him. That one line was a gut punch and really grounded the story in the here and now for me. Julieta references the “zoom year” many times and how her parents really struggled to keep their store open during the lockdown. The tone that Andreu used towards COVID was beautiful in that she acknowledged this trauma event that the world experienced and how our lives have been forever altered.
Julieta and the Romeos was a perfect summer read that had a lot of heart, fun, and romance. It balanced a number of deeper issues skillfully while having a soft sense of whimsy at summer love.