Nineteen-year-old Julian doesn't see any point to life. After years of bullying at school, he is so depressed that his single mother must stay home from work to care for him, and the only outlet for his feelings is his artwork. He sees a glimmer of hope after meeting the similarly out-of-place Romeo at a party and sharing a kiss with him. But Romeo has always identified as straight — and he hangs out with a group of guys who hurt Julian's friend Paris and harassed his cousin Ty.
But Julian can't deny his attraction to Romeo, who is confused about his feelings and embarrassed by his past behaviour. As the two begin to fall in love, Julian finds strength he never knew he had, coming out from hiding behind his paintings and brokering peace between Romeo and Ty. But Romeo's old friends come after the couple, resulting in a vicious fight that puts both Julian and Romeo in the hospital. With the encouragement of Mrs. Duke, Paris's mother and Romeo's vice-principal, the two boys decide to take a stand for their right for respect.
Just Julian provides insight into the struggle against homophobia, reminding LGBTQ readers that they are not alone.
MARKUS HARWOOD-JONES is a writer, visual artist and documentary filmmaker. He is the author of the short story collections Confessions of a Teenage Transsexual Whore and Everything & All at Once. His feature film, Mosaic, tells the story of his journey across Canada and the United States to learn more about the trans community. He lives in Toronto.
"This modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet is just as heart-wrenching as the original — but with a happy ending."
"A unique way of telling a story in a new way to make it relatable to younger audiences. Would definitely be a good compare and contrast in a classroom and just a fun read."
"These [Real Love modern romances, written at a fourth grade reading level, effectively tie in contemporary themes like bullying and social media while presenting relatable characters embracing their sexuality."
"The novel boasts empathetic characters and enough dramatic action to hold readers' attention to its happy ending."
"The romance stories in Lorimer's Real Love series reflect the diverse world that teens live in — at a reading level for emerging readers."
"...these novels [Just Julian and Romeo for Real] provide much-needed representation for those whom society marginalizes."
"Overall, an easy, quick read. I think it would work for upper middle (8th) grade students as well as high school readers. The content is approachable, and dramatic enough to keep their interest."