Roman and Jewel

Inkyard. Jan. 2021. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335070623.
 Gr 8 Up–Jerzie Jhames may be a new name on the Broadway scene, but she is a shoo-in for the lead role of Jewel in Robert Christian Ruiz’s new Romeo and Juliet–inspired hip hopera. Unfortunately, megastar Cinny is cast instead as a means to garner interest in the musical from her widespread fanbase. Jerzie is relegated to the sidelines, cast as Cinny’s standby despite being a better fit for Jewel. On her first day working with the cast, Jerzie falls instantly for Zeppelin, the gorgeous, mysterious guy who plays Roman. It seems like Zeppelin reciprocates her feelings—but then why do Cinny and Lorin, another cast member, each seem to be dating Zeppelin? And who is this Ava person that Jerzie keeps hearing about? Jerzie and Zeppelin’s love story mirrors Romeo and Juliet in over-the-top, obvious ways: Jerzie’s family forbids her from seeing him, Zeppelin comes to woo her via her balcony, and a climactic scene involves a suspected suicide attempt. Also overt is Ruiz’s similarity to a real-life three-named Latino composer who brought hip hop to Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Jerzie’s Aunt Karla and brother Judas are refreshingly realistic characters in this otherwise clumsy romance novel, rife with generic archetypal characterizations. Supporting characters are diverse with LGBTQ+ representation; Jerzie is Black and Zeppelin is white and Italian American.
VERDICT Broadway lovers and musicians may enjoy the references to popular musicals and details about music composition. An additional purchase for libraries seeking to expand their romance offerings.

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