Phoebe Stone, author of the sleeper hit DEEP DOWN POPULAR, is back with a middle-grade code-breaking mystery full of romance and excitement. Think CHASING VERMEER meets THE SECRET GARDEN!
Felicity's glamorous parents have a secret. When they leave her with distant relatives in Maine, Felicity hopes they won't leave her long. Her new Uncle Gideon hides things. Her Aunt Miami is star-crossed. And Derek, a kid her age, refuses to leave his room.
But Felicity needs Derek's help. Gideon is getting coded letters from Felicity's parents, and she's sure they're in trouble. Can Felicity crack the code, heal the family and save her parents, all while surviving her first crush? It's a tall order, but - like THE SECRET GARDEN'S Mary Lennox before her - Felicity's up for the challenge.
I always enjoy books whose plots and characters send me on a rollercoaster ride. Sometimes I like it when that happens in books, namely when I wind up like something better than I expected. The Romeo and Juliet Code is something of a modern re-telling of The Secret Garden, and at first it didn’t really draw me in. By the end of the novel, I found it to be a sweet and charming story that I would happily pass on to just about any middle grade reader.
I’ve never read The Secret Garden, but I have seen the movie, so I get the basic jist of the story. Felicity, who is quickly named Flissy, starts off in her new surroundings a bit like Mary Lennox in the sense that she’s naive and somewhat sullen. I didn’t like how her character was portrayed at first because it seemed like she acted too young for her age. In the end The Romeo and Juliet Code turned out to be something of a coming age story, and I loved how Flissy’s character evolved. It was great to see her sharp wit and empathy shine through.
Even without he character arc, this story had two things I love going for it: a setting in Maine and a lovable, eccentric family. Being an eccentric person myself, I love reading about characters who are eccentric. It was great not only to see how they all bonded and interacted, but that they weren’t entirely happy go lucky. However, there were also strains within the family, and I loved that Stone addressed how each character dealt with them differently.
While I grew to care about the characters, I still felt that this story had a few flaws. Some of the plot twists seemed fairly obvious to me. Others were unveiled so quickly that the author seemed to skim over the characters’ emotional reactions, and I think this book would have been even better had she given those aspects more attention.
The Romeo and Juliet Code is not a perfect read, but it was well worth the 3.5 hours or so that I spent on it. I think that ten to twelve year old girls who love historical fictional will devour this witty and emotional read.