Romeo and/or Juliet Review
Written by Ryan North
Art by every single comics artist, like there are over 90
Cover by Noelle Stevenson
Review by Angela Fowler
Note: This book is a “Chooseable-Path Adventure,” meaning after each part of the story, you can make a choice and turn to a different page to experience different consequences. Therefore, this review will follow the same structure. You are the reader, and you get to choose how you experience the review. Begin with Paragraph 1, and follow each choice. If you try to read all the paragraphs in numerical order, you will be super confused!
You open a link to read a review of Ryan North’s Romeo and/or Juliet. You had heard it was good, and that it was on the New York Times bestsellers list, but that isn’t enough for you. You have to read a review from some random writer on a comics website (WHEN IT ISN’T A COMIC REALLY), and then you could make a decision you could trust. But first, a decision:
“Hey! I don’t even know what this book is about?” Scroll to Paragraph 3 to read a quick synopsis.
“What’s so confusing?! It’s obvious what it’s about.” Scroll to Paragraph 11 to begin the review.
“Reading reviews is dumb and I hate fun.” Scroll straight to the bottom for the Verdict.
Weren’t you paying attention? You can’t read this review in normal order! Go back to Paragraph 1 and make a choice, you scalawag. Hey, could this be a joke that Ryan North made in his book? You can’t know unless you read it!
Romeo and/or Juliet is a retelling of the play by William Shakespeare (or Billy Shakes, as his buds call him… which includes you). Instead of experiencing the play in normal chronological order, you get to play the play… I mean, you get to play… WHAT I MEAN IS you get to pretend to be the characters and make lots of decisions as the story plays along. Yes, you can experience the story like Billy Shakes wrote it (those decisions are marked with little hearts), but where’s the fun in that?! Maybe Romeo is too drunk at the party to even meet Juliet, and he eventually marries someone else? Maybe Juliet goes to college and laughs with her friends over that time she got engaged for a day over a guy with a “sex ladder”? Maybe instead of dying (SPOILERS), the two open a bed and breakfast in Mantua? Maybe they die under COMPLETELY DIFFERENT circumstances. With tons of endings and almost 500 “pages” (really, more like sections, since some of the numbered “pages” are really short), you get to decide your fate, playing as Romeo, Juliet, or even secret unlockable characters!
“That was very informative and I’m stoked to read it!” Start with the positive review in Paragraph 11.
“That sounded terrible because I hate fun!” Read a NEGATIVE review in Paragraph 12.
“Hey, wait a minute! I’ve never even read Romeo and Juliet. What’s this play about?” Scroll to Paragraph 5.
Alright, hot shot. You think you can do better than me? I’d like to see you try. I bet you haven’t even read the book yet. Of course not! You don’t need to! Just pull out a blank sheet of paper and write whatever review you want to see. You have time. I’ll wait. ………….. Have you finished? Read it now.
“I’ve written a better review, and didn’t have to resort to a silly gimmick!” Pat yourself on the back. Scroll to the Verdict to see if we got the same answer.
“You can’t get out of reviewing the book that easily!” Scroll to Paragraph 11 (for writing) or Paragraph 9 (for easter eggs) to continue the professional review.
So, you’ve admitted it. You slept through high school English class. It’s okay, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Anyway, Billy Shakes wrote Romeo and Juliet about two teenagers from feuding families who meet at a party and IMMEDIATELY fall in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Like, before they even know each other’s names. When they DO find out about each other’s names and that their parents probably won’t approve, they decide to get married in secret. Between the wedding and the wedding night (BOW CHICKA WOW-WOW), Romeo hangs out with his friends and kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (after he killed Romeo’s friend Mercutio). Hey, it happens! The wedding night happens (YEAH it does), but Romeo’s banished from Verona. Juliet comes up with the brilliant idea to fake her own death. When Romeo finds out she’s dead (but not the fake part), he rides in to kill himself over her corpse (COMPLETELY REASONABLE) and dies minutes before Juliet wakes up. Justifiably upset, Juliet kills HERself, and their parents finally decide to reconcile because, you know, dead teenagers. I may have skimmed over some bits here and there, but those are the important parts.
“Okay, already! Stop yammering on and get to the review, already!” Scroll to Paragraph 11 to read about the writing.
“I hate writing and only look at the pictures.” Scroll to Paragraph 7 to read about the art.
“Now I know enough information about BOTH books that I can write my own review.” Write your own review in Paragraph 4.
The thing about chasms is that you never know how deep they are until you fall in them. This one is pretty shallow. In fact, it’s basically a mud puddle, so you feel pretty silly. You don’t notice that this muddle was a suspicious glowing green, because you were on the way to the hospital anyway. You’ve got things to do! Unfortunately, every step you take seems to be slower and more, shall we say, shamble-y. Your infected paper cut seems to be gone, but the rest of your skin is now a sickly gray-green. And you’ve developed one of those weird cravings, but not for Twizzlers this time. For… brains? Brains. Braaiiins. Brrrraaaaaiiiiiiinnnnnnsssss…
You are now a zombie. Good job! Unfortunately, you’re too interested in eating brains to read anything. Scroll back to the top for the proper review.
Each ending is illustrated by a different artist, and a few of the important parts of the story also have artwork. All of it is fantastic. Some of my favorite pieces of art include Andy Runton’s beautiful illustration of Romeo and Juliet’s first kiss (passage 120), Eric Kim’s cozy illustration of Juliet laughing with her friends (passage 175), and Brandon Bird’s illustration of the reader finishing the book (passage 235). The art ranges from zany to hauntingly beautiful, but they all stay within the book’s aesthetic. There are also sections (mini-stories) that are fully illustrated, where the art leads you through the story.
“Hey, isn’t this a review of the BOOK?! Shouldn’t you be talking about that?” Scroll to Paragraph 9 to read about easter eggs.
“I can do a better job than this!!” Scroll to Paragraph 4 to do better than I.
The thing about chasms is that you never know how deep they are until you fall in them. This one is pretty deep. In fact, it’s infinite. You fall for hours. Days. You were packing a water bottle and some beef jerky, so you’re not hungry, but neither are you slowly down. You become bored. You finish the book, the one you were carrying with you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Romeo and/or Juliet. It was The Old Man and the Sea, which is a real downer, but it’s better than nothing. Finally, FINALLY… you die from the infected paper cut. SURPRISE. Use disinfectant next time.
You are dead. Scroll to the top to start this review over.
Scroll to the bottom to get to the Verdict.
Scroll to Paragraph 4 to write your own review, since this one is so dangerous.
The best part of this book is the sheer amount of “easter eggs” throughout the entire thing. Yes, you get to play as Romeo or Juliet, the two horny teens with violent families. But there are also little stories and mini-games throughout. You can play as Juliet’s nurse in a text-based computer game, complete with puzzles! You can read library books with Romeo about other Billy Shakes chooseable adventures: In one, you’re Robin Goodfellow in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (or, “A Midsummer Night’s Choice,” as North calls it), and in the other you’re Macbeth in The Merry Wives of Windsor (I kid, it’s Macbeth, or “Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair”). There’s even a mini-story within “A Midsummer Night’s Choice,” so you’re reading a story within a story WITHIN a story. You can even play as a SUPER SECRET UNLOCKABLE CHARACTER. If I ruin that surprise, though, Ryan North will track me down. He has ways.
“Fine! What’s the verdict?” Scroll down to the Verdict.
“I’ve somehow skipped reading about the writing!” Scroll to Paragraph 11 before you end this review.
“Hey, you were suspiciously positive about this book. Are you afraid of Ryan North? I’m not!” Read that negative review in Paragraph 12.
“I was promised an untimely demise! It’s not too late, is it?” Scroll to Paragraph 10.
You decide to stop reading the silly review and just read the book, which you have sitting next to you anyway. You flip through the pages, chuckling at each pun (“The rest is sausage!” What a card!!), when you get a paper cut. Ouch! It’s pretty deep, but you wipe up the blood before getting it on your precious book. You don’t think about it. After all, it’s only a paper cut. But a week later, it hasn’t gone away. In fact, your finger has turned red. Then purple. Then black. You’re pretty sure it’s infected. You walk to the hospital, still contemplating your hand, when you fall down a chasm.
Scroll to Paragraph 8 for a true demise.
Scroll to Paragraph 6 for an un-demise.
If you’ve read Squirrel Girl, you know the tone you’re in for. Ryan North is funny in a pure cinnamon roll kind of way. In fact, I may have been pepper in some of North’s style throughout this review. All-caps for emphasis? CHECK. Self-aware irony? I’m checking that off my totally existing checklist! Puns? Check-off’s pun!!! (Get it? Like Chekov’s gun? Never mind…). It’s not just a funny book, though, although it is COMPLETELY hilarious. The humor is deep and multi-faceted. While North is making puns on other Billy Shakes titles, he’s also commenting on sexism, on youth and maturity, on identity and sexuality, on violence… He takes these characters frozen in the tragedy of the play and liberates them to make their own (sometimes anachronistic) choices. He also make the “choose-your-own-adventure” style work for the storytelling. For example, Juliet begins the play as a proper unmarried Verona lady (although she’s really into muscle-building, since she has nothing else to do): completely under her parents’ control and unable to make any decisions for herself. Thus, the first several pages, if you play Juliet, go in numerical order… at least, either until you (as Juliet) tell your parents to stuff it, or until you meet Romeo. In contrast to that, Romeo’s story goes all over the place, since he’s traveling for most of the beginning of the play (although he spends most of his time talking fancily to himself… in keeping with his character). The branching narratives develop the characters, but also stay true to the characters: Juliet will muscle her way through situations, but also think strategically, while Romeo will talk his way through situations, though his plays are boneheadedly simple. The intricate branching narrative takes several different directions: sometimes to happy endings, sometimes to untimely death. It’s a book with almost infinite “replay” value.
“Okay, okay! Can I hear about the art now?” Scroll to Paragraph 7.
“I’ve already read all about the art and easter eggs.” Skip to the Verdict.
“What is this ‘untimely demise’ you keep talking about?” Scroll to Paragraph 10.
You know who likes Shakespeare? (And stop saying Billy Shakes, stop trying to be cool, you don’t know him.) Nerds! That’s who. And you know who likes chooseable adventure Shakespeare stories? DOUBLE NERDS! Seriously, this book sucks so bad because I hate fun so much! You know what I also hate? Kittens! Especially those cat videos where they try to fit into boxes. LAME! Comics, too! Comics are lame and bad. Reading in general, too. Books lead to paper cuts, which lead to deadly infections, which lead to death. Don’t read this book if you don’t want an untimely demise!!! …………. Oh, and by the way? You’ve suffered an untimely demise. Death by infected paper cut. I hope you’re happy now.
You are now dead. Scroll to the top to restart the review and try to survive. You can do better.
You have no choice. Buy this now. It is a true delight and you are definitely missing out if you don’t get it.