Verona Comics is yet another modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The two star-crossed kiddos in this story meet at a comic convention prom. Jubilee is dressed as a peacock character from her step-mother’s indie comic when she encounters a young man in a button down shirt wearing a Batman mask. Jubilee was tasked with leaving her comfort zone to add some life experience to her cello playing, so she spends the evening talking with Office Batman. Afterwards, even though it was supposed to be a one night encounter, the pair end up texting each other. Bats and Peak have a good back and forth banter going on that could be spoiled if Peak/Jubilee knew who she was texting.
Bats is in actuality Ridley, son of the owner of a major chain of comic book stores. He learns who Peak is but keeps texting her because he likes her. When his dad finds out, Ridley tells him that he’s using Jubilee to get inside information on Verona Comics, the small comic book store her step-mom owns and that his dad has been trying to partner with for a long time. Ridley feels terrible about the deception, but he still has a desire to win his horrible, abusive father’s approval. So Ridley stays with his father instead of flying back home to the other side of the country and poses as a new Verona Comics customer. Soon, Ridley is one of their regulars, then part of their family. Jubilee is even torn between Ridley and Bats for her affection, not realizing they are one and the same.
I felt really badly for Ridley. His father was incredibly abusive, and there was a very upsetting scene in the beginning of the book where he was drunk and lashes out at Ridley. Ridley’s mother wasn’t much better, as she ignored him constantly and never sent his things from their house. Poor Ridley also has an inner monologue in his chapters for when his anxiety gets to him, and I just really worried about this boy and needed someone to save him from his horrible parents and give him some therapy and a hug.
I went into Verona Comics expecting a fluffy romcom story, but it took a sort of unexpected mental health issue twist. As I read more, I also remembered that the actual Romeo and Juliet story wasn’t very fluffy or romcom, and I got very worried for my little nerdy babies. Poor Ripley, on top of his issues with anxiety and his horrible parents, had gotten into some trouble in the past where he tried to kill himself by jumping off a roof. Thankfully, the book doesn’t end THAT way here, though things do get a little bleak. The conclusion is a little bittersweet, but hopeful.