Waking Romeo

Kathryn Barker

Waking Romeo
Allen & Unwin
2 March 2021

Waking Romeo

Kathryn Barker

Year: 2083. Location: London. Mission: Wake Romeo.

It’s the end of the world. Literally. Time travel is possible, but only forwards. And only a handful of families choose to remain in the ‘now’, living off the scraps that were left behind. Among these are eighteen-year-old Juliet and the love of her life, Romeo. But things are far from rosy for Jules. Romeo is in a coma and she’s estranged from her friends and family, dealing with the very real fallout of their wild romance. Then a handsome time traveller, Ellis, arrives with an important mission that makes Jules question everything she knows about life and love. Can Jules wake Romeo and rewrite her future?

A highly original mashup that delights as it disorients … and asks what would have happened if two great literary love stories were somehow intertwined.


I can’t tell you how many times Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been retold or offered inspiration to a story. The same goes for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. But what would the outcome be if these two classic stories were combined? Or if Shakespeare didn’t actually write Romeo and Juliet? Or if the inspiration for Wuthering Heights came from a time traveller? All these questions and so many more are brought together in the brilliantly clever and engaging Waking Romeo, the second book by Australian author Kathryn Barker, winner of the 2015 Aurealis Award for In the Skin of a Monster.

Act 1 of Waking Romeo opens in the year 2083. Time travel is possible and has been popular for decades, but you can only jump forwards. This creates issues for the present as no one has hung around to sustain it. Juliet (or Jules) lives in a small community that has decided to stay put, struggling to survive in the now. Romeo is in a coma due to the events of their swift, messy affair, which has caused tension in their neighbourhood, and Jules isn’t coping well. Enter Ellis, a time traveller of a different sort … but from when in the timeline is he? His assignment: to wake Romeo.

This story brings together myriad dystopian futures, the concepts of fate and existentialism, and a disorientating, but engaging, tale of love and time – but not in the way you may first think. A fun read for fans of classic literature turned on its head, this is a spectacular genre twisting tale. For ages 14+.

Claire Atherfold is the manager and the children’s book buyer at Readings State Library.

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