If Romeo and Juliet got the Hamilton treatment…who would play the leads? This vividly funny, honest, and charming romantic novel by Dana L. Davis is the story of a girl who thinks she has what it takes…and the world thinks so, too.
Jerzie Jhames will do anything to land the lead role in Broadway’s hottest new show, Roman and Jewel, a Romeo and Juliet inspired hip-hopera featuring a diverse cast and modern twists on the play. But her hopes are crushed when she learns mega-star Cinny won the lead…and Jerzie is her understudy.
Falling for male lead Zeppelin Reid is a terrible idea–especially once Jerzie learns Cinny wants him for herself. Star-crossed love always ends badly. But when a video of Jerzie and Zepp practicing goes viral and the entire world weighs in on who should play Jewel, Jerzie learns that while the price of fame is high, friendship, family, and love are priceless.
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I was your garden-variety high school theater kid. I obsessively listened to Broadway cast recordings, starred in every school production, and tried to pretend I could belt when I was home alone and/or driving (spoiler alert: I couldn’t). So my delight when I saw that there was a musical theater-themed YA contemporary coming out was unmitigated.
And it was EVERYTHING.
“Roman & Jewel” is insanely readable: it’s fast-paced but doesn’t feel frantic and has a pretty quick start, so it never feels like it drags; the characters are compelling even if I hated them (look, I *know* we’re supposed to sympathize with Cinny at least a little bit, but I COULD NOT STAND HER OKAY???), the author’s knowledge of the inner workings of a theater is evident, and the rehearsal scenes are *magical.* I couldn’t wait to read more about the musical itself, which is a modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet – basically, for all you fanfiction readers out there, this version of the play is a reincarnation AU (yes, I just outed myself, and yes, I’ve written 50k+ words of Zutara fanfic in the last month, SHUT UP) where the leads have to find each other in all of their lifetimes. The way Davis described the rehearsals, songs, and choreography made me feel like I was really watching, and it was impossible not to root for Jerzie. She was perhaps the only major character who wasn’t at least a little bit morally grey, but that honestly worked in her favor. By setting her up as the only reliable source of information we had (and even that was a little debatable given how many people deceived her, though that obviously wasn’t her fault), it gave us ample reason to root for her. Add that to her easy likability, and Jerzie made for a protagonist I could get behind. And although the romance wasn’t always my favorite (SPOILER I know he turns out to be a good guy but uhhh…what was going on in the middle there?), it certainly kept me guessing.
Simply put, “Roman & Jewel” was the compulsively-readable musical theater romance of my dreams, and EVERYONE needs to run out and get this when it’s released!
Best Scene: the “I Think I Remember You” scene, DUH.
Most Underrated Side Character: Jerzie’s brother was SO SWEET. He was protective but knew when to back off, which reminded me a little bit of my own older brother (we have the same age gap as they do) if he weren’t determined to rat me out to our mother every time I so much as liked a boy.
Content: some cursing, one instance of drug use (not glamorized and the character makes a point of saying she doesn’t intend to do so again), and one kiss scene that gets a little…*spicy.* Other than that stuff, this was a pretty clean read.
Rating: 5/5 Confused Emu