Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan
Published by Penguin

VERONA Comics is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet aimed at teenage audiences, connecting with the themes in the original text and giving them a relatable present-day twist.

Coming into summer, this is a classically sweet and relatable romance but with a distinct edge added by a dramatic turn of events perfect for anyone looking for a read light enough to fall in love with and dark enough to stay.

The perspective of the story is split through chapters between the two main characters, Ridley and Jubilee. Jubilee, while she’s only young, is a greatly talented cellist planning and preparing for her future, always practising and pressuring herself to be better. When she’s not, she works with her mother, an independent comic-book artist who owns her own store, Verona Comics, which is a second home to her loving family.

Ridley, whose ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety are only worsened by his critical and neglectful parents, is expected to be part of the family business, the corporate comic-book chain threatening to bring down Verona Comics, despite his own secret love for Jubilee’s mother’s work.

The two meet at an event, both in costume, and start to fall in love, talking almost constantly online without knowledge of each other’s identities. As their feelings for each other deepen, the rivalry between their parents only worsens and as they discover the truth about each other, they must navigate keeping their relationship a secret.

This element of the story is what makes it feel so much more real. Ridley’s challenging recovery from his mental health issues is a concern to Jubilee and something she longs to help him with, but with her big cello audition coming up they both learn that two people alone cannot save each other. This is a book that acknowledges that the intensity of first love does not make all other problems go away.

This interpretation gives the impression that in adapting it, the writer truly understood the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and transferred its lessons with just as much excitement and heartbreaking moments but a little more hope. Their whirlwind romance is both wonderful and complicated and they face all that comes along, learning to care deeply for another person while dealing with your own issues.

Despite all the heartwarming moments of getting to know Jubilee and Ridley’s love story, it is valuable to keep in mind that, as with the play it was based on, there will also be tears.

Going beyond both pure and simple unsolvable tragedy and fluffy, easy romance, Verona Comics is the middle ground that young people falling in love for the first time need to hear about, woven with lessons on honesty, healthy communication and mutual respect that Romeo and Juliet could have used.