Rating: 5 stars out of 5
When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.
Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.
This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy)
There’s a lot that can be said about This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet. It’s a hurt/comfort story without a lot of comfort going on. Reading the majority of this novel feels like poking at an open wound. It’s that’s raw and incredibly painful. Not a story I could read without taking needed emotional “timeout” breaks. Honestly, parts of this are so agonizing, I wondered if I wanted to continue.
So why the 5 stars? Why read it at all?
Because it’s extraordinarily well written, with an eye towards making the reader feel almost at a cellular level what Suki Fleet’s homeless teenagers are going through on a daily basis as anonymous, non people of the streets. The humiliation, the deprivation, the starvation, and pain. The exploitation and danger that exists for them and just the edge of survival each one walks is brought vividly and horrifically to life in the persons of Romeo and Julian, and others we meet.
Hope? That doesn’t occur until late in the story. Until then it’s sheer determination and love for each other that carries each young man through the darkest of times, and yes, they get plenty dark and gritty.
Told through the mind and heart of Romeo, an artistic mute who’s never without his drawing pad or Julian, his protector and the person he loves, we see the cost of that protection on Julian, on them both. The way being homeless is eating away at them, the despair, their ragged physical state and the things they are willing to do to survive. Each character is someone so vulnerable, so achingly young and discarded that the more you read, the more gut wrenching the impact.
Not surprisingly the story contains elements of thoughts of suicide, drug use, rape, self harm, and abduction. If any of these are triggers of yours, please take note.
After all that, the novel ends on a note of hope and happiness. It’s truly needed after the darkness the characters and the readers have endured for most of the story. It wasn’t quite enough to lift the heaviness of heart I felt after reading the book but held so much positivity for the future that I could leave it at that, hoping that the worse was finally behind them
I’m not sure this story is for everyone but for those that love a great contemporary novel with amazing characters and unforgettable plot ….and a journey that’s dark, gritty and full of pain. This is a story for you.
Cover art with the dim backdrop of London and not so bright characters grimly hints at the tone of the story.
Sales Links: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 453 pages
Published March 27th 2019 (first published March 22nd 2014)
Original Title This Is Not a Love Story
SeriesLove Story Universe
CharactersRomeo Danilov, Julian Lavelle