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The Romeo and Juliet Code


The Romeo and Juliet Code

Eleven-year-old Felicity Bathburn Budwig is a very proper British girl. She is stoic, plucky, and knows how to knit. She is a big fan of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and proud of Britain's involvement in the war against Germany. But life in London amid the air raids is getting just too dangerous for children, so Felicity's parents, Winnie and Danny, manage to arrange passage for the family to America, where Danny's family lives on the coast of Maine.

Winnie and Danny drop off Felicity --- and her beloved companion, the stuffed bear Wink --- with Danny's family, whom Felicity has never met before. They then leave to go back to England --- or so Felicity believes. All through the rest of that summer, there is little word from Winnie and Danny. No mail for Felicity, only mysterious letters for Danny's brother Gideon, bearing postmarks from Portugal. Gideon won't let Felicity see the letters, so she takes matters into her own hands, uncovering surprising information about Danny and Winnie along the way.

These aren't the only family secrets Felicity discovers during her stay in Maine. Her American relatives are unusual, even if America isn't quite the wild frontier she had always imagined. Uncle Gideon is both goofy and sad, holding secrets and bearing grudges that Felicity doesn't understand. Her Aunt Miami adores Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and dreams of a life on the stage, even though she's terrified when that opportunity finally arises. And then there's the unseen recluse Captain Derek, yet another mystery for Felicity to figure out. At first, she's not sure about these new American relatives, especially when they give her a nickname (Flissy) and seem reluctant to answer so many of her questions.

Felicity is an unusual and beguiling heroine, both mature and matter-of-fact but still charmingly young for her age. THE ROMEO AND JULIET CODE is likewise a pleasant family comedy that will appeal to readers of all ages, but there are still darker themes that lurk around the edges. Winnie and Danny's activities during the war are thrilling to be sure, but they're also dangerous. The novel addresses themes of betrayal, grief and forgiveness, as well as exploring the different faces and forms of love. These themes, as well as the many ambiguities with which the book closes, make THE ROMEO AND JULIET CODE suitable for readers who, like Felicity herself, are ready to embrace both romance and realism in equal measure.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 1, 2011

The Romeo and Juliet Code
by Phoebe Stone