A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Just Julian (Romeo & Julian) by Markus Harwood-Jones

Standard

Rating 2.5 stars out of 5

In a nutshell, I thought this story had lots of potential that was not quite achieved. And to be honest, the number of LGBTQ+ characters for one small town seemed way out of proportion to the general population.

Perhaps because the underlying theme is YA and I don’t read many books featuring teens, or perhaps because of the very obvious play on the Romeo and Juliet theme, or perhaps the author’s writing style or his desire to pack every diverse LGBTQ character known to mankind into one short story, somehow it didn’t ring true to reality. It was okay, and I liked many parts of it, but it was a bit overdone in some of the dramatics and characterizations.

Julian Capulet is nineteen, but hasn’t finished school yet. He’s taking online courses because the bullying and physical abuse he suffered at school became impossible for him to overcome, but there’s one course left, and he can’t focus long enough to finish. When he gets stressed or depressed, he retreats to his room and paints. Well, it appears he paints—he throws paints on canvas in dramatic brush strokes. His mother seems to have a part time job and is an advocate—an OTT advocate—for LGBTQ rights. His friends are all apparently somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum: gay, bi, lesbian, trans, nonbinary, asexual, demisexual, and more. Given that so many teens in this story identify as non-heterosexual, the focus in the latter part of the story on the need to increase awareness of LBGTQ teens in the schools and stop homophobic bullying seems superfluous.

When Julian meets Romeo (yes, Romeo!) at a party and their attraction seems mutual, he’s at first distrusting since Romeo has been with the group of boys who’ve bullied him. But Romeo claims he’s different, and he and Julian become a couple. Julian’s mother very liberally lets Romeo stay overnight. Later in the story when we meet Romeo’s mother (Mrs. Montague) it’s evident that she’s not happy with the relationship.

Of course, there’s no smooth sailing for either young man because just when they think they are free to be themselves, Romeo’s former buddies show up and attack the couple (see blurb for more detail). As the story ends, the two have decided to fight for their rights by participating in a school rally organized by Julian’s mother (of course) and the mother of Julian’s trans friend. I suspect their relationship-building will continue in the next story as this ends on a HFN.

Cover art by Shabnam Safari using a Shutterstock image is a photo of a young man with auburn hair and oriental features. It clearly represents the main character, Julian, and with the cloudy sky background, it’s attention-getting.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 168 pages
Published February 1st 2018 by Lorimer
ISBN 1459412931 (ISBN13: 9781459412934)
SeriesRomeo & Julian

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