Sharon Draper's Romiette and Julio opens with Romiette's recurring dream. Deathly afraid of water, Romiette is drowning in her dream. As she struggles to surface, she feels the water pull her back down until she hears a man's voice. Just as it seems she is about to be saved, Romiette wakes up, sweating and disoriented. She is unable to go back to sleep; so she reaches for her journal and begins to write about her fears.
Chapter 2 features Romiette's journal entry in which she introduces herself and her family. She discusses her fear of storms and water and explains that while she took swimming lessons, she was always too afraid to let go of the side of the pool. A sixteen-year-old junior in high school, Romiette is independent, opinionated, and stylish: characteristics she inherited from her parents. Romi's dad, Cornelle Cappelle, is a prominent newscaster for the local Cincinnati TV station. Lady, Romi's mom, owns and runs an African boutique in downtown Cincinnati. She is known in the community for her regal, sensible personality, and she encourages Romi to explore her African roots.
After describing her family in her journal, Romi lists the features that she would like to find in a love interest. She is uninterested in most of her male peers because she wants someone who is curious about the world around him and who would be just as comfortable watching a hockey game as he would be attending a play with her. When Romi finishes her journal entry, she realizes how late it is and tries to go back to sleep.
The next day when Romi returns to school from Christmas vacation, she is eager to meet up with her close friends. Her best friend, Destiny, is positive, fun, and keenly interested in astrology. As she and Romi discuss their Christmas vacations, a fight breaks out nearby and the girls distance themselves from the foolishness.
In Chapter 4, Draper introduces the book's second title character, Julio....
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After Julio finishes his first day at his new school in Cincinnati, he trudges back home through the snow. His dad, Luis Montague, is unpacking boxes in their apartment when he enters. When Luis asks Julio how school was, Julio tells him that he hates it. He complains that there are no Spanish influences that he can see in Cincinnati, and his dad tries to encourage him that things will get better. Their conversation is interrupted when Julio's new friend, Ben, calls. While Julio is surprised at Ben's call, he is also glad to talk to him. Ben explains his constantly changing hair color and tells Julio that he would rather be out sledding in the snow than stuck in school. When Ben asks Julio about life back in Texas, Julio is happy to oblige him. He tells Ben about his love of sailing and swimming and that his family is from Mexico via Italy, hence his last name. Ben confesses that he does not know much about his family's history. He lives with his mom and sister and sees his dad occasionally. As the boys talk about their interests, Julio explains that he is interested in film and TV and would love to get a job or an internship at a TV station.
Chapter 7 features chat room conversations between several teens. Because the novel was written in 1999, e-mail, chat rooms, and websites were nascent and just becoming popular. While the conversation is listed next to the teens' screen names, it is pretty obvious early on that Romi is "afroqueen" and Julio is "spanishlover." The two realize that they have more in common with each other than with the others in the chat room, so they enter a private chat room. At this point, they do no know that they live in the same city or go to the same school. Julio and Romi do not exchange their names during their private chat but do tell each other a little about themselves. Julio describes the beauty of the Rio Grande and compares himself to a river, while Romi compares herself to a lake with edges, ripples, and...
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In Chapter 11, Julio talks to his friend Diego who is still back in Texas. He recounts his online conversation with afroqueen and also tells Diego about the gang's approaching him in the bathroom. Diego's only suggestion is to run away from that kind of stuff, but Julio tells him that he does not have a choice since his parents decided to move the family to Cincinnati. As their conversation is ending, Julio receives a call from Ben on the other line. He tells Ben about the gang incident, and Ben fills him in on the situation at their school. He explains that because the guys who threatened Julio were wearing hoodies, they are the leaders of "The Family"—also known as the Devildogs. Ben ends the call by warning Julio to be careful because the Devildogs have quite a violent reputation.
Later that night, Julio returns to the chat room where he met afroqueen. After the two teens banter with other teens in the chat room, they once again go into a private chat room where Romiette explains her hesitation about continuing to talk to Julio. He tries to ease her fears by telling her his age and high school's name—Thomas Jefferson High. When Romiette hears her own school's name as well as Ben Olsen's name, she becomes more comfortable and admits to Julio that she goes to the same school. She then realizes that he is the same student who punched Ben on the first day back at school after vacation. When Julio explains the situation, Romiette trusts him even more and agrees to meet him in person at lunch the next day.
The following night, Romiette describes her meeting with Julio in her journal. She admits that she really likes Julio, that he is not like the other guys at her school. She and Julio had talked so much during lunch that they forgot to eat. But before she has a chance to call Destiny to discuss Julio, Destiny calls her, looking for details. One of the most important aspects about relationships to Destiny is a person's sign. She is amazed that Romiette did not think to ask Julio his sign and tells her that she must obtain that information as quickly as possible. She does not care a bit when Romiette tells her the difference in their races. To Destiny, astrological elements are most important.
In band class the next day, Julio informs Ben that he has met his Internet "queen," and Ben approves when he discovers that "afroqueen" is Romi. He encourages Julio to pursue the relationship.
After Romi and Julio meet in person, they chat again via Internet when they get home. Julio tries to discover if Romi just met him because she feels sorry for the new kid, and she quickly assures him that she enjoyed their time together just as much as he did. Romi then tells Julio about her golden retriever's puppies and offers him one. He has to check with his parents, but he misses the dog he had to leave back in Texas and promises to ask permission to adopt one of Romi's. As the conversation comes to a close, Romi discovers that Julio is a Pisces, and she lets him know that she is a Leo; Julio then promises to bring her a surprise the next day at lunch.
Julio is so exuberant after his conversation with Romi that he feels motivated to unpack his boxes. Since the move, he had not felt at home in Cincinnati, but with his developing relationships with Ben and Romi, he believes that something good might actually derive from the move. As he's unpacking, he finds a small stuffed lion that he had won at the state fair the year before and sets it aside so that he can give it to Romi the next day. He can no longer contain his excitement; so he seeks out his dad and tells him about Romi. At first his dad is unhappy that he is spending so much time in front of the computer, but when he finds out that Julio has actually met Romi in person and that she goes to his school, he feels better; that is, until Julio tells him that Romi is African-American. Luis Montague is not racist, but one of the reasons he moved his family away from everything they knew was the gang violence between Latino and Black gangs back in Corpus Christi. After Julio describes Romi a little more, Luis apologizes for his reaction and tells Julio that he will agree to taking a puppy if Julio's mom gives her permission.
After Julio and Romi's second lunch meeting, Romi once again journals about her experience. She realizes that her feelings for Julio are deepening...
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In Chapter 21, Romi and Julio have a phone conversation about their visit from the Devildogs. Julio describes his family's reason for moving from Texas to Ohio, and Romi is surprised to hear how bad the gang situation is at Julio's old school. Back in Corpus Christi, the gangs run the schools, and the tension between a Hispanic gang (the Ramones) and an African-American gang (the Black Daddies) was at all-time high when Julio moved. After the gangs had taken over the school, they would walk the halls each day, and none of the authority figures in the school would seek to stop them. The principal retreated to his office during the "gang walks" and pretended not to notice that his school was out of control. One day a teacher, Mr....
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After school, Destiny visits Romi, who is still upset about her dream. Destiny, who attributes great significance to dreams, tries to interpret the dream as Julio saving Romi. Romi is still unsettled but turns the conversation to her excitement over Julio coming to her house on Sunday. While Romi and her friend discuss Julio's visit, Julio talks to his mom about Romiette. Mrs. Montague shares a close relationship with her son and Julio knows that he can confide in her without her judging him. She encourages his relationship with Romi and promises him that the Cappelles will like him if they raised their daughter to be such a fine young lady.
At school, Ben and Julio talk between classes. Julio tells Ben about his...
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The night before Romi has planned for Julio to come over to choose his puppy, she invites Destiny to stay with her. The two plan to pick an outfit for Romi's "date" and then to try out "The Scientific Soul Mate System" which Destiny has finally received in the mail. After chatting with Mrs. Cappelle, Destiny hurries up to Romi's room where she and Romi discuss the latest in the situation with the Devildogs. Romi tells Destiny about Malaka Grimes's warning and cannot understand why the Devildogs care whom she befriends. Destiny tries to encourage her friend but does warn her that because the stars show that Julio is "made up of fire," Romi needs to be careful because of her astrological connection to water.
On the same...
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Chapter 36 features a brief news segment from Mr. Cappelle's broadcast. The chapter serves to highlight Mr. Cappelle's professionalism versus his co-anchor Nannette's silliness and to inform the audience that the news station will be completing and airing an investigative segment on gangs in Cincinnati. The purpose of the report is to discover whether gangs are truly an issue in the city, and Nannette ironically comments that she cannot believe that Cincinnati has any such problems.
Chapter 37 returns the novel's focus to the teens. As Destiny, Ben, Romi, and Julio meet for lunch, a connection seems to be forming between Ben and Destiny. After all, he does possess many of her soul mate's characteristics. After talking...
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On the night of the kidnapping, Mrs. Cappelle does not return home until nine, just before her husband, and they both are surprised and anxious when they cannot find Romi. Their daughter's note promises that she will be home by seven; so the Cappelles begin calling Romi's friends to find out where she could be. When they talk to Destiny's mom, all she can tell them is that Destiny left the house with Ben early that evening. As the Cappelle futilely go through the list of Romi's friends, Mrs. Cappelle remembers that Romi had mentioned talking to Malaka recently. Of course, she has no idea that Malaka knows exactly where Romi is and that she is involved in her disappearance. Mrs. Cappelle calls Malaka and does not like the girl's...
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As the Montagues wait for word about Julio, they discuss what they could have done differently with him. Mrs. Montague tries to convince her husband that they have raised a fine young man and that they have to have faith that he will be okay. At two in the morning, they receive a call from the police captain who tells them that they have had a break in the case. A group of teens driving a car matching the tire tracks found at the kidnapping scene has been arrested. When the Cappelles and Montagues arrive at the police station, they are asked to look at the teens through a two-way mirror to see if they can provide any information to the police. Mrs. Cappelle immediately recognizes Malaka, and the teen is pulled from the line-up to...
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Chapter 51 repeats the book's beginning. Romi struggles underwater and is about to succumb to drowning when she hears a voice in the distance: Julio's voice. The only difference is that now Romi truly is drowning rather than dreaming. As she sinks farther beneath the surface, Julio is desperate to find her. He dives down and at last touches Romi whose hair is caught on a rock. After he frees her, Julio pulls her to the surface and turns her face to the air as he struggles to get them both to the shore. On the verge of hypothermia, Julio can barely carry the lifeless Romi as he tries to find shelter from the storm. When he trips over a fallen tree, he realizes that it is large enough to protect them from the elements and lays Romi...
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The morning newscast features a bulletin on the missing teens, and Mr. Cappelle's ditsy co-anchor, Nannette, speculates about whether Romi and Julio will meet the fate of the infamous Shakespearean lovers of similar names or if they might simply be hiding from the threat of gang violence. The bulletin concludes with a police number for tipsters to call. After her report, Nannette heads to the lake near London Woods to do on-the-site journalism, but everyone she tries to talk to has no time for her silliness. She closes the report with a promise to update her audience when she receives more information.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cappelle and Mr. Montague set out on their own search. As they sit down on a log to rest, they discuss...
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