So, I haven’t done the best job at reading and reviewing my April ARCs in time for their release, so I’ll do my best to rectify that over the next couple of weeks!
I will start by sharing my belated review of Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan, which released this past April 21st! ✨
From the author of Hot Dog Girl comes a fresh and funny queer YA contemporary novel about two teens who fall in love in an indie comic book shop.
Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.
Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.
They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible…unless they manage to keep it a secret.
Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?
Verona Comics is a geeky, queer, contemporary reimagining of the Shakespeare classic, Romeo and Juliet. I found myself to be pleasantly surprised by Jennifer Dugan’s sophomore novel, as I’ve found myself to be very disappointed by white authors and their contemporary books this year. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with Verona Comics, and in its pages I stumbled upon a beautiful story about mental health and the true meaning of love.
Dugan did an excellent job at reimagining Romeo and Juliet as modern teen characters, while also separating the stars of her story to stand on their own with their unique personalities and never forgetting to honor the iconic star-crossed lovers.
Jubilee is an overachiever who plays the cello and is questioning her sexuality, but is utterly confident in her abilities as a musician. On the outside, Ridley seems like just a skater, but is instead dealing with a lot of turmoil in his homelife, plus suffering of severe anxiety and depression. When Jubi and Rid’s paths cross, their lives change forever, and not exactly for the better.
I wouldn’t describe Verona Comics as a fluffy, light-hearted romcom; it is truly nothing of the sort. Yes, it does play with some really cute romantic tropes, but it’s not an easy read. It’s a love story that deals with very strong themes of mental health and the reason why it was so special to me is because it does things that I’ve never seen in YA. It explores how not all love, no matter how strong and passionate it is, is healthy. It is all-consuming and can transform into something unhealthy and toxic, spinning out of control until it suffocates you.
It discusses how being mentally ill can affect those people around you, and how coping mechanisms aren’t a magical fix to the problem. How solely relying on this one person to feel better and have a reason to wake up everyday can negatively affect a relationship. And especially, how romantic love doesn’t cure you. The way it was written, right along with all the little Romeo and Juliet easter eggs like the Verona Comics store and the rivaling families, was an incredible interpretation of the original play and it brings something brand new to the table.
With a great cast of side characters, an engaging plot, and a splash of nerdy vibes, this tender m/f queer love story will sucker-punch you right in the feels with its rawness and sense of reality.
Rating: 4.5 stars ⭐
Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review, and to Emmy @ Books Beyond Binaries for helping support this post!